Blacks continue to lag behind their white fellow workers in finding high-paying jobs and accumulating wealth in a slowing U.S. labor market, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress. The Washington, D.C., policy research and advocacy organization’s brief explores the yawning, decade-long gap between blacks and whites regardless of the fact that the job market has produced 109 months of uninterrupted growth and the unemployment rate reached its lowest level in a half century—a trend that may be coming to a crawl.
“African American workers still face more hurdles to get a job, never mind a good one, than their white counterparts,” wrote Christian E. Weller, the Center for American Progress senior fellow who authored the report. “They continue to face systematically higher unemployment rates, fewer job opportunities, lower pay, poorer benefits, and greater job instability. These persistent differences reflect systematic barriers to quality jobs.”
African Americans continue to contend with such challenges as outright discrimination, adds Weller, as well as “occupational segregation—whereby African American workers often end up in lower-paid jobs than whites—and segmented labor markets in which black workers are less likely than white workers to get hired into stable, well-paying jobs.”
His brief also makes the point that labor market outcomes—including higher unemployment and fewer good jobs—continue to be worse for African American workers and their families despite African Americans having greater access to employment and gaining more jobs.
This analysis released by the Center for American Progress comes in time for tomorrow’s release of the November employment report. Overall, economic prognosticators find that it is losing steam. In fact, ADP and Moody Analytics estimate that the nonfarm payrolls report will reveal that private payrolls expanded by a mere 67,000, significantly below the forecasted 150,000, meaning that employment has hit its lowest level since May, according to CNBC. One huge question mark that will be answered Friday is the impact of the reappearance of striking GM workers.
“The job market is losing its shine,” Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, said in a statement. “Manufacturers, commodity producers, and retailers are shedding jobs. Job openings are declining, and if job growth slows any further unemployment will increase.”
When Whites Catch A Cold, Blacks Suffer From Pneumonia
This news does not bode well for workers of color. It is an undeniable fact that during economic downturns, African Americans are among those hit with the most severe blows. For decades, forecasters—including the past Black Enterprise Board of Economists—have warned of such conditions, citing that “when whites catch a cold, blacks suffer from pneumonia.”
In fact, the Center for American Progress’ conclusions bear out that assertion. The brief found that the racial wealth gap has widened since the Great Recession. Prior to the recession, African American households held, on average, one-fourth the total wealth of white households. Currently, African American households have one-fifth of the net worth of their white counterparts. And African Americans are more likely to be unemployed, have access to fewer employment opportunities and less employer-sponsored benefits. When they do gain employment, they hold less stable, lower-paying gigs.
The brief offered the following reasons for the nagging racial jobs and wealth gap:
- Black workers have less access to jobs than white workers. The employed share of prime-age black and white workers peaked in the 1990s. Even a decade after the Great Recession, they face more obstacles than whites to finding jobs, making it difficult for blacks to save.
- African Americans, in general, have fewer well-paying, stable jobs with decent benefits than whites. For instance, they typically get paid a great deal less than white workers. The typical median weekly earnings for black full-time employees came to $727 from July 2019 to September 2019 versus $943 for whites—a life-changing 30% difference.
- Black workers feel the impact of recessionary times more intensely than white workers, disappearing sooner in a declining economy and return much later to the workforce during an economic rebound.
- Black women across education levels face unique difficulties in the labor market. While they are more likely than white women to work, they often face greater challenges in finding jobs and do not receive the same level of compensation as white female and male counterparts. These disparities have been “fueled by systemic barriers frequently rooted in race and gender bias.” Moreover, roughly 80% represent sole, primary, or co-breadwinners for their families.
“The systematic discrimination that African Americans face in the labor market make it even more difficult for black families to build wealth, while increasing their need for savings,” Stable, well-paying jobs are important because of the systematic and deeply entrenched nature of the racial wealth gap,” says Weller in a statement. “It’s clear that a job is not enough to close the gap. Rather, policymakers need to utilize a variety of bold, intentional policy solutions that address the varied and complex nature of the problem.”