MEDIA RELEASE: Workers of color experienced higher unemployment than whites during Great Recession

 MEDIA RELEASE: Workers of color experienced higher unemployment than whites during Great Recession

Unemployment rate for African-Americans in NC in 2010 was 8 percent higher than national rate

RALEIGH (Jan. 13, 2012) -- Workers of color experienced a dramatic loss of employment over the course of the Great Recession, with the unemployment rate for workers of color registering significantly higher than the state rate for whites. With federal support for extended unemployment benefits still hanging in the balance, it’s paramount to protect the lives of these workers, analysts say.

While white workers experienced an 8.7 unemployment rate in 2010, the African-American rate rested at 17.2 percent and Latino workers experienced a 10.7 percent rate. In advance of Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the NC Justice Center released a profile of unemployment in workers of colorthis morning, which also finds the unemployment rate for African-Americans in North Carolina was 8 percent higher than the national rate for African-American workers.

Between 2007 and 2010, the number of total employed workers in North Carolina declined by 5 percent. For African-American and Latino workers, the decline was 7.4 and 8.6 percent respectively, while white workers saw a 5.2 percent decline during the same period. Although the labor-force participation remained constant for white workers during this period, labor-force participation increased for African-Americans by 3 percent, and – even more staggeringly – by 14.6 percent for Latinos.

Unemployment in North Carolina has been driven by a job deficit and the continued loss of state and government jobs, even as the country experiences an official economic recovery. The unemployment profile reveals that the loss of public-sector jobs due to both federal and state budget cuts will disproportionately impact workers of color, with African-Americans comprising of 1 in 5 public-sector workers.

Unemployment insurance offers a critical lifeline to workers who have lost jobs through no fault of their own. The average weekly benefit amount of unemployment insurance amounts to less than 40 percent of an average worker’s wages, but these benefits help unemployed workers meet their basic needs. Recent data finds that unemployment insurance benefits kept 3.2 million Americans out of poverty in 2010.

Extended unemployment benefit programs allow states to receive full federal funding for the Extended Benefit program. However, these programs were continued for just two months. As of March 1, 2012, extended unemployment benefits will expire if Congress does not take action.

For more information visit www.tarheelworkers.org.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bill Rowe, General Counsel, NC Justice Center, 919.856.2177; Alexandra Forter Sirota, Director of the NC Budget & Tax Center, alexandra@ncjustice.org, 919.861.1468; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).