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Weak Jobs Market Takes Heavier Toll On Black Men

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Weak Jobs Market Takes Heavier Toll On Black Men

Economy

Weak Jobs Market Takes Heavier Toll On Black Men

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The current unemployment rate in the U.S. is 9.1 percent, and changing that number is urgent in the White House. In a few minutes, we'll hear about President Obama's latest push for job creation.

NORRIS: But first, to a higher number - 19 percent. That's the unemployment rate for African-American men. And economists don't expect that number to fall significantly anytime soon, as NPR's Sonari Glinton reports.

SONARI GLINTON: Ypsilanti, in southeast Michigan, has one of those old-school main streets - bank, bakery, barbershop. On the second floor of the most modern building on the street, you'll find the office of Michigan Works.

Unidentified Male: Hi.

GLINTON: Hi, how are you doing?

Unidentified Male: Good.

GLINTON: Michigan Works is a public-private collaboration that helps get the unemployed retrained and back into the job world. George Toles, with Michigan Works, says at his office, you can get access to the Internet for job searches, get interview and resume training and other help looking for work.

Mr. GEORGE TOLES (Michigan Works): They can make use of our fax and copy machines; our interview room, where they can go in and talk to employers or...

GLINTON: On any given day, Toles sees about 150 to 200 clients. Ypsilanti is only about 30 percent black, but Toles says the majority of the clients he sees in a day are African-American, like Fernando Paine(ph). Paine is a carpenter who hasn't had full-time work in three and a half years, since the housing market collapse.

Mr. FERNANDO PAINE: The bottom fell out. I was like, the first one - probably - to feel it.

GLINTON: Paine says he's luckier than others. His wife of 13 years has solid work as a nurse, so he's been taking care of their four children and going back to get a degree in business administration. Paine says even with extra training, he's still finding it hard to find a job.

Mr. PAINE: They will tell you to get a trade; you'll be fine with a trade. Been there, done that for 20 years. They say you need a better education so I -when the bottom fell out, I went and got a better education. And I'm still in the same boat.

GLINTON: The overall unemployment rate has been hovering in the 9 percent range but for African-Americans, it's much higher. And for black men, even higher still - 18.7 percent were out of work in May, according to the Labor Department.

Professor BILL RODGERS (Rutgers University): One of the unique things, or features, of this recession was it was called a man-cession.

GLINTON: Bill Rodgers is a professor of public policy at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Prof. RODGERS: White men and African-American men and Latino men really bore the brunt of it because of the dramatic losses, or contraction, in construction and manufacturing.

GLINTON: Rodgers says for the unemployment rate for minorities to fall to the single digits, the U.S. economy would have to have the kind of growth it had in the 1990s.

Prof. RODGERS: We're not going to get back to pre-recession job levels for, you know, four to five years. And when you add the urban twist in, you know, it becomes - I would say - crisis or epidemic levels.

Mr. MARK MORIAL (The National Urban League): What distresses me more than anything is that it has gotten worse.

GLINTON: Mark Morial is head of the National Urban League.

Mr. MORIAL: Here we are, 50 years after the glorious 1960s, and the problem of unemployment in the black community is as bad as it's ever been.

GLINTON: Earlier this week, the U.S. Conference of Mayors came out with a report showing cities - such as Detroit and Cleveland - with large black populations won't see single-digit unemployment this decade. Again, Mark Morial.

Mr. MORIAL: I think what it says is that if we do nothing, we are in for a period of a decade or longer of very high unemployment. And the social cost, and the human costs, of that are something we haven't even calculated as a nation.

GLINTON: Morial says he wants Republicans and Democrats to focus on job creation, but he's especially looking towards President Obama for leadership.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News.

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