Memphis Among Worst U.S. Cities To Be Black, Male and Unemployed

Nashville, Memphis Among Worst U.S. Cities To Be Black, Male and Unemployed

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 09:52 PM PDT

By Jonathan Meador, Nashville, SCENE

Here’s a study you likely won’t see the Nashville Chamber of Commerce touting any time soon. (And to be honest, it slipped under our radar, too.)

Published earlier this year by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Economic Development, the study, titled, Race and Male Employment in the Wake of the Great Recession: Black Male Employment Rates in Milwaukee and the Nation’s Largest Metro Areas,” found that Nashville and Memphis rank among 40 of the country’s cities employing the fewest African Americans. As of 2010, the year for which the most recent data was available, only 58.3 percent of Nashville’s African-American males aged 16-64 were employed, compared to Memphis’ 53.2 percent.

The percentage of non-Hispanic whites employed in Nashville and Memphis, however, were far higher, at 72.9 and 75.9, respectively, according to the study. (Memphis, it should be noted, ranks sixth in the nation for largest population of African-Americans based on 2010 Census data, yet half its working-age men have been abandoned by the economy.)

“As a coda to this four-decade labor market meltdown, the Great Recession that began in 2007 has added another devastating blow to inner city economies and the employment prospects of African American males,” the study reads. “Even though the recession ‘officially’ ended nationally in 2009, employment continued to contract in most metropolitan areas through 2010, the year for which the most recent data on race and employment at the local level are available. Consequently, in 2010 the employment rate for African American males reached historic lows in metropolitan areas across the country. By 2010, in five of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, fewer than half of working-age black males held jobs. In 25 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, fewer than 55 percent of working-age black males were, in fact, employed.”

Spanning a period from 1970-2010, the study reveals that the workforce of African-American males in Nashville has steadily eroded, from 68 percent in 1970 to 58.3 percent by 2010. In Memphis, 67.9 of working age black males were in employed in 1970, dwindling to its 2010 rate of 53.2 — despite the fact that the black populations of both cities has grown during the same period of time.

Recent jobs numbers are equally bleak for African-Americans. According to the UC Berkeley Labor Center (which uses the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ standard, non-holistic unemployment metric), the unemployment rate for blacks was 14.4 percent for the month of June, which is likely 3-5 percentage points lower than the actual figure.

“This rate was an increase from May,” the center writes, “when unemployment in the Black community stood at 13.6 percent. For the nation as a whole, unemployment was 8.2 percent in the month of June; this was unchanged from May when the national unemployment rate stood at 8.2 percent. Among whites, unemployment was 7.4 percent; among Latinos, unemployment was 11.0 percent. Comparable May2012 figures were 7.4% and 11.0% respectively.”

The rise of for-profit prisons in the last 30 years has no doubt contributed to this disturbing trend; as the study finds in its target metropolitan area of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, “more Milwaukee African American males were admitted to Wisconsin correctional facilities in an average year in the 2000s than were employed at the end of the decade as production workers in factories in the city of Milwaukee.”

But since it’s an election year, don’t expect the topic to come up much, if at all, by anybody, because freedom.