Inequity in Unemployment

By Congressman Alcee L. Hastings

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) continues to focus its efforts on assisting those who are unemployed.  Unemployment is of particular concern to me, given that my home state of Florida continues to have one of the highest rates of unemployment in the nation. The economic crisis has left millions of Americans out of work, causing families to struggle to make ends meet.  Especially impacted by the recession, however, are minority communities.


Black Americans experience longer stretches of unemployment than the general population, and minority-owned businesses have been hit particularly hard.  The sad fact is that while our national unemployment rate has dropped to around nine percent, unemployment for black Americans still remains at 16 percent. These levels are reminiscent of Depression-era unemployment rates and are not only unnerving, but are quite frankly unacceptable.


Even more troubling is the rate of unemployment among black youth, which is over 40 percent.  Part-time, seasonal, and other jobs normally filled by young people are now being filled by older workers who have lost their jobs or have to work multiple jobs to support their families, limiting employment opportunities for our nation’s youth. Without these employment opportunities, an entire generation is missing out on critical employment opportunities, which will have a detrimental impact on their future.


All of these facts point to a troubling racial and economic disparity that deserves national attention.  Unfortunately, these disparities are not a new phenomenon and continue to go unaddressed in larger discussions of job creation and economic recovery.


That is why I am pleased to report that the CBC has launched a new ‘For the People’ Jobs Initiative, bringing town halls and job fairs to cities across the country.  Additionally, the CBC Jobs Initiative will address the economic hardships faced across the nation, and in particular those in vulnerable populations and minority communities, by introducing legislation to create jobs and help all Americans get back to work regardless of race or age.  I am proud to be a cosponsor of important legislative initiatives introduced by my fellow CBC Members such as the Congressional Black Caucus ‘For the People’ Jobs Initiative Resolution, introduced by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri; the Urban Jobs Act of 2011, introduced by Rep. Ed Towns of New York; and legislation introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois to create and encourage the creation of youth jobs.


However, in addition to addressing the plight of the future generations in minority communities through jobs initiatives, we also must ensure that young people have access to affordable and quality education.  That is why I have been vehemently opposed to the Department of Education’s Gainful Employment regulation, which would disproportionately hinder access to higher education for minority students.  Minority youth are already bearing the brunt of economic hardship, and these difficult economic times have already put their futures in jeopardy.  It is discouraging to see them dealt a second blow by needlessly blocking their options and access to a higher education.


As the economy begins to strengthen, we must work to ensure that no one is left behind, both in terms of employment and educational opportunities.  I will continue to work to create employment opportunities to help struggling Americans get back on their feet.  Along with the CBC, I remain committed to protecting the future of minority communities all across this nation.


Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Democratic Chairman of the Florida Delegation.


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