Blacks Disproportionately Affected by Philly Unemployment Rate

APTOPIX EconomyThe national unemployment rate is at 8.3 percent. And so is Philadelphia’s. While that may come off as very comme si comme sa, it helps to note that the city’s rate is half a point higher than the state’s, which stands at 7.6 percent. According to a report at Loop 21, this disparity, along with the declining number of government jobs in the state—and nationally—is having a disproportionate effect on this city’s and other cities’ black populations.

It’s like this: Philly has the third largest black population in the country, at 660,000, and that population is trumped only by New York and Chicago. However, per capita, our black population is 43 percent, while Chicago’s is 33 percent and New York’s is 27 percent. And with the overall decline in government jobs part of both Gov. Tom Corbett’s and the national conservatives’ cause, blacks are being hit extra hard as government jobs “have traditionally been a reliable source of employment for people of color,” according to the report at Loop 21.

Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan has made this an issue in many of his columns, suggesting the government is overpopulated with people of color. “Though only 12 percent to 13 percent of the U.S. population, blacks hold 18 percent of all federal jobs,” he wrote on August 26, 2011. Since then, government employment has continued to shrink as private sector job growth has exploded. While the national unemployment rate held steady last month, the black unemployment rate rose half a percentage point, to 14.1 percent, and remains about 6 points higher than the national average.

And while Buchanan is concerned with federal government jobs, local government has felt a similar strain. “All told,” reads the report at Loop 21, “Philly’s public sector has shed approximately 9,000 jobs over the past year, according to the Pennsylvania DLI. Of that total, local government saw the biggest loss, at around 6,000 positions.”

As we’ve noted in the past, Pennsylvania has been used as an example of a state going red and, shortly after, shedding a massive number of government jobs. And Philadelphia, whose reliance on state funds is well known, has been hit significantly since January 2011. A recent piece in The Nation notes that this may be part of a larger statewide trend which, along with ultrasound and Voter ID bills, is meant to disenfranchise Democrats in particular.

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