September 19, 2014
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Black Caucus Chairwoman Speaks At Hearing On "Chronically Unemployed"

 WASHINGTOND.C. – Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), delivered the following statement today at a CBC hearing examining policy solutions that address the needs of the “chronically unemployed”:

 

“I’m Congresswoman Barbara Lee of the Ninth Congressional District of California and Chairwoman of the 42-member strong Congressional Black Caucus.

 

“I’d like to thank everyone here today for this very important conversation, examination and ultimately what I hope will be a call to action about policy solutions for addressing chronic unemployment.

 

“We have heard and will continue to hear very powerful testimony from an impressive collection of scholars, policy experts and leaders with experience in direct job creation and worker training and retaining. I’d also like to draw your attention to a report issued this morning by the Joint Economic Committee, which is chaired by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York.

 

“The JEC report, entitled “Understanding the Economy: Long-Term Unemployment in the African American Community,” is a sobering reminder that the current recession has hit some communities harder than others.

 

“Let me be clear, there is no question that all Americans are hurting. However, the Joint Economic Committee’s report unquestionably illustrates that the racial disparities that existed before the recession have only grown.

 

“Although the national unemployment rate is now below 10 percent, unemployment among African Americans is at 15.8 percent and Latinos at 12.4 percent. The figures reported by the Joint Economic Committee sadly demonstrate that our economic recovery has been uneven and many communities continue to lag behind.

 

“Among some of the study’s key findings are:

 

·        African American men have been especially hit during this recession, with nearly 1 in 5 facing unemployment.

 

·        African American women have seen their unemployment rate jump from 7.1 percent in February 2007 to 13.1 percent in February 2010.  And African American female heads of household, who bear the sole financial responsibility for their families, have an even higher unemployment rate of 15.0 percent.

 

 

·        African American workers of all ages are experiencing higher unemployment rates than the overall population, but younger workers have been especially hard hit during this recession.  More than 2 out of 5 African American teenagers are unemployed, compared to an overall teen unemployment rate of slightly over 25 percent.

 

·        While having at least a college degree has usually been an effective shield against unemployment, African Americans with a 4 year college degree have an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent, almost double the unemployment rate for white workers (4.5 percent) with a similar level of education.

 

·        African Americans have experienced longer stretches of unemployment than the general population.  Although African American workers make up only 11.5 percent of the labor force, they account for more than 20 percent of the long-term unemployed, and make up 22 percent of workers who have been unemployed for over a year.  The median duration of unemployment for African American workers has risen from less than 3 months before the recession began to almost six months.

 

·        Finally, using an alternative measure of unemployment and underemployment, this report shows that one in four African Americans faces underemployment or unemployment.

“In its continued role as the conscience of Congress, the CBC has a moral obligation to address inequalities and injustice wherever they exist.

 

“To that end, the CBC has worked with the Obama administration and Congressional leaders to create a jobs agenda that would stimulate the economy, create jobs, and respond to the needs of the chronically unemployed and underemployed, as well as populations who are living below the poverty line.

 

“At the beginning of this month the Congressional Black Caucus launched a five-week campaign to seek policy solutions for the ‘chronically unemployed.’ Today’s hearing is part of that effort, and your presence this morning and commitment to this issue is appreciated.

 

“Last week we partnered with Chairman George Miller of the Education and Labor Committee to include several key provisions in the Local Jobs for America Act, a bill introduced last week and championed by the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The legislation takes into account three factors--population, poverty, and unemployment--to significantly help communities where poverty and joblessness remains high. While state and local governments are laying people off in order to balance their budgets, the Local Jobs for America Act will create public and private sector jobs in communities across America.

 

“The CBC has been and remains laser focused on assisting the chronically unemployed through direct job creation. Focusing on these priorities will make a swift and significant impact on the lives of Americans and on our economy.

 

“For instance, given the unemployment rate of approximately 10 percent, 15 million Americans are without jobs. One percentage point of the total number of the unemployed is roughly 1.5 million people.  For $75 billion, each of these  1.5 million Americans could be hired in jobs paying $50,000 per year, thus reducing  the unemployment rate by a full percentage point.  For $300 billion, we should be able to hire 6 million workers and reduce the unemployment rate by 4 percentage points, below what it would have been without any investments at all.

 

“In closing, I would like to once again reiterate that Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are committed to continuing to work together with congressional leaders and President Obama to fix our economy and create jobs to address the true depth of this recession. There is no question that by working collectively, we can make a real difference in the lives of all Americans.”

 

-- 30 –

 Congressional Black Caucus

2444 Rayburn Building
WashingtonDC 20515 
(202) 226-9776 (T)
(202) 225-9817 (F)



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