The racial contours of the unemployment crisis are well known. Black unemployment rates are about twice that of whites and nearly 50% above Hispanic rates. During the Great Recession, black joblessness outpaced that of the other groups. While white unemployment has dropped during the (alleged) recovery, unemployment rates for blacks have continued to rise.
The latest data—for October—shows a reversion to the long-term norm. Hispanics and Asians chug along ahead of blacks. And whites experience the weakest job growth of all:
- Total employment up 277,000 (+0.20 percent)
- White employment: up 98,000 (+0.09 percent)
- Black employment: up 123,000 (+0.81 percent)
- Hispanic employment: up 211,000 (+1.03 percent)
- Asian employment: up 122,000 (+1.80%)
As far as employment growth is concerned, whites have been the biggest losers throughout the Obama years:
From the start of the Obama Administration (January 2009) to October 2011, white employment declined by 1.9 million, or 1.7%. Black employment has also declined during Obama’s term, but not quite as dramatically—down 149,000, or 1.0%. Meanwhile, Hispanics and Asians are the winners, their employment increasing by 3.3% and 2.2%, respectively.
That white unemployment rates have declined during this period reflects the virtual cessation of white labor force growth. More than any other group, whites can drop out of the labor force and live off their savings when jobs are scarce. Longer-term, low white birth rates reduce the flow of white entrants into the labor force.
The current national unemployment rate is 9.0%. But when you focus in on black workers, joblessness jumps to 15.1%. Focus the lens even tighter, on urban areas hit the hardest by the recession, and you find black unemployment has recently attained Great Depression-era levels: 18% in Cleveland, 19% in Charlotte, 25% in Detroit, 22% in Milwaukee. [Black workers lose good jobs to free trade, By William Lucy, Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 13, 2011] Not coincidentally, these cities are also meccas for low-wage immigrant workers.
Had black employment grown at the same rate as Hispanic employment since January 2009, 750,000 more blacks would be working today, and black unemployment would be 10.9% instead of 15.1%. Do the same calculation for whites and you find 6.5 million more of them employed and their unemployment rate 2.8% instead of 8.0%.
An immigration moratorium would help achieve both outcomes.