For Black Teens, Jobs Crisis Worsens
by Seth Sandronsky
July 19, 2003
The 2001 recession (six straight months in which the economy’s output of goods and services shrank) is officially over. But a resumption of growth isn’t trickling down to America’s black teens of both genders, ages 16 to 19.
Their jobless rate in June 2003 was 39 percent, up from 34.1 percent in June 2002, the Labor Department reported. No other group has had such a futile search for paid work for so long.
White teens of both genders had a 16.5 percent unemployment rate in June 2003, down from a 16.9 percent rate the previous June. The overall teen jobless rate was 19.3 percent this June, down from 19.5 percent in June 2002.
Before World War II, the national jobless rate approached the towering rate that it is for black teens in 2003. Consider what happened when the U.S. military entered that war.
Its positive effects on the labor market were swift. Idle workers began to earn wages.
Their living standards improved, as the government bought the unsold surplus from the private sector. It had been unable to sell what workers who kept their jobs during the depression years had grown or made.
With Uncle Sam buying the surplus for the war effort, the U.S. economy grew rapidly. Such growth always and everywhere cuts the jobless rate and boosts workers’ wages.
In 2003, the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq has had no such stimulus. Economic growth to ease the national epidemic of jobless black teens is too slow to reverse their rising unemployment.
On that note, the silence from politicians and pundits is deafening. They, as the “executive committee” acting to help corporations and wealthy people, shy away from such a view of the economy and job market.
Media echoes the conventional wisdom that backs faith in markets as the path to prosperity. If markets are left free to function, all will benefit, if not now, then in the future.
Meanwhile, African American teens are confronting a horrid labor market.
Their bitter reality counters the market mythology.
These youth are now, in effect, living in depression-like times. Corporate media are loath to cover the root causes of such social conditions.
People ignored by the mainstream respond to their sour living conditions in unique ways. Case in point is the recent uprising of black youth in Benton Harbor, Michigan, against police brutality and persistent unemployment.
The fire this time?
Seth Sandronsky is a member of Peace Action and co-editor with Because People Matter, Sacramento’s progressive paper. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.