I was really moved this morning by a story in The Miami Herald about two black men who are struggling to support their families amidst one of the worst job markets in decades.
I learned African American men are hit hard by what's happening in the labor market. According to the July numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Miami-Dade has one of the higher jobless rates in Florida, at 12.4 percent. The number of unemployed African Americans is 17.3 percent, and of those, 41.5 percent are young black males. The article suggests some of the factors contributing to the situation: transportation issues, language, education.
From The Miami Herald:
First, there's Lennox Martin who sells Jamaican DVD’s and clothes and switchblades at the Flea Market. When he came to Miami from Jamaica he had a plan:Work as hard as he could, wherever he could, and bring his whole family to America so they could enjoy the fruits of a better life. Martin has turned to self-employment and works six days a week, selling and hustling and working towards his goal: “Better days are coming,” he said, “You got to stick to the plan you start with.”
Yet, it was another man's story that jolted me into the reality of what's happening today. Even with college degrees, people can't get jobs -- particularly in certain professions.
Antwuan Wallace, 38, chose books instead of streets, and developed a different sort of skills, ones he thought would guarantee him a future. And if it wasn’t for the Miami economy, it probably would.
“I do public finance policy and bond work,” Wallace said, “I’ve seen a dramatic drop in my discretionary income. This job market doesn’t support my skill set.”
Wallace got an ROTC scholarship to Hampton University and earned a masters. While he was working on his Phd, his mom became ill and he moved to Miami to take care of her. At job interviews, he was told he was overqualified, and if not that, then not bilingual
He took whatever work he could get. Consulting work for public policy firms and think tanks, writing policy briefs or doing policy analysis. Jobs that are readily available in New York and California but in Miami, not so much. “You certainly have to hustle,” he said. After a year in Miami, he’s decided to leave. With his mother’s health stabilized, he’s moving on. Perhaps the main lesson learned is there are no guarantees.
How frustrating it must be to want to work and be willing to work hard and not be able to find a job! My Labor Day wish is to see the unemployment rate come way down by this time next year and for employers to realize that the high unemployment doesn't mean you can take advantage of your workers.
Happy Labor Day to All!