By Dean L. Jones, CPM
Too many of us have family members and friends that have not sustained full-time employment for more than a year. Even though these folks are constantly seeking positive employment, the number of people unable to secure decent jobs is vastly offensive. Across the country, the public outcry is unpredictably low, while the statistics are screaming “Help!”
The extended unemployment insurance undoubtedly helps to ease most financial burdens, nevertheless here in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Santa Ana, the U.S. metropolitan area rankings reveal an unemployment rate of 11.4%. These cities rank among the worst metropolitan areas at number 326 out of 372. More appallingly, there are 16 additional major California cities enduring higher unemployment rates on this national list with El Centro California having unemployment at 29.7%, which is the highest rate of all major metropolitan areas in the United States.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported March’s payroll employment increased by 88,000 new jobs, a number that changed the unemployment rate slightly from 7.7% to 7.6%. When you break down this seemingly downward trend of unemployment, there is a glaringly strange unbalanced job engagement for blacks, whose unemployment rate is 13.3% nationally, while comparably the Asian unemployment rate is 5.0% and whites 6.7%. It is an even greater disparity in the California black unemployment rates, ranging between 18%–22%, depending on the major metropolitan area in California, with unemployment rates for black men and women averaging 21% and 18% respectively.
Black teenagers across America are grappling with an unemployment rate over 43%. This is an extremely disconcerting disparity in job opportunities afforded blacks than other ethnic group members when coupled with the fact that the overall teenage unemployment rate is hovering far below at 24%. A significant reason why the unemployment rate is ridiculously high for teenagers, as they are an invisible viable contributor to the U.S. labor pool.
The national Hispanic unemployment rate is 9.2%, even still relatively much lower than 18% – 22% for blacks seeking jobs in southern California. Which makes one wonder why so many governmental programs are not intended for the lagging black populace? It is very disheartening to see this especially following the swift and brutal abolishment of affirmative action, where the nation is supposedly adhering to an instantaneous belief of a color blind society and blacks will do fine being included into supplementary expansive socioeconomic development efforts.
On the face of it, this apparent socioeconomic development strategy brings to mind how the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has simply thrown a large job assistance net around the unemployment gaps to place out of work people in government funded education and training programs. There are adult services workforce investment initiatives that provide millions of adult workers with workforce preparation and career development services. This is coupled with dislocated worker assistance for those who have been laid off or have been notified that they will be terminated or laid off. Likewise, the government is constantly encouraging employers to offer work opportunities for unemployed older Americans as a valuable resource for the 21st century workforce.
Furthermore, federal and state governments are trying to help gain long-term employment. There are thousands of agencies working public and private grants to develop and administer quality employment and training services to Native American, people with disabilities, veterans and eligible spouses, migrant and seasonal farm workers and their families to attain greater economic stability, at-risk youth―ages 16 through 24, young offenders, youth living in high-poverty areas, foster youth, unemployed individuals in areas of substantial unemployment, homeless veterans reintegration, as well as preparing adult inmates to re-enter the workforce with industry-recognized credentials.
One could assume blacks are proportionately rolled into such efforts like the Dream Act, guest worker plans, Immigration Reform and Control Act, business immigration system reforms, H-1B non-immigrant visa arrangement, Executive Order 13171 Report on Hispanic Employment in the Federal Government, President’s Executive Order 13583 on Establishing a Coordinated Government-Wide Initiative to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce, or how about the SBA’s annual multi-billion dollar loans to Hispanic-owned businesses.
Putting aside training, education and outreach programs, blacks are dutifully adhering to the newly expanding business hiring paradigm of applying for jobs online, all the same the general feedback from black job seekers is that this application process results in a poor level of interest for obtaining work engagement procedures. While this takes place we stand idly by playing water cooler witnesses to the growing number of corporate executives, nonprofit heads, and athletic coaches who lose their jobs through poor performance and/or unethical acts, but whose job transition differs considerably in their outcome receiving lucrative contract buyouts that usually set them up in a considerably long and comfortable economic heaven. The bulk of people, just do not have it like that and are attempting to satisfy their expenses on virtually a daily basis.
The California hourly minimum wage begins at $8.00 per hour, or $16,704 annually, which is roughly $6,000 below the federal $23,050 total yearly income poverty level for a family of four. Minimal wage positions are the extent of what a high school graduate can expect, but yet even without a high school degree minimal wage is still the going offer. Consequently, it is without question to not have family with only a high school diploma in America. The public education system and captains of industry have already parted ways from the closing of the 20th Century, giving little meaning to high school diplomas by those for encouraging, recruiting and placing human resources into sustainable jobs.
In 1940, my parents (black) and their generation graduated from a geographically segregated Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Thomas Jefferson high school. There was ample prejudice to go around, nonetheless, most black men and women were able to secure real work that got the nation through World War II, the Korean War, and sixteen years of the Vietnam War. Thirty years later after my parents’ public education, I graduated from George Washington, also a LAUSD high school with a diploma in Industrial Arts concentrating in Architectural Drafting, except the job market for high school graduates had already dwindled in Los Angeles, giving way for more college degreed job candidates.
Fortunately, my era of seeking real employment occurred right around the time when affirmative action was being embraced and opportunities in employment and education were active (unknowingly, that was affirmative action’s U.S. apex), where today entire business sectors have affirmatively closed their job ‘opportunity door’ and unless you have access to an effective mentor and/or an influential support group you will be hard pressed to secure a good quality job. Even the best workers can easily find themselves in a serious state of financial struggle while seeking viable employment.
Dean Jones, CEO, Southland Partnership Corporation (a public benefit organization), contributes his view on labor engagement and supply chain management.