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With Black Unemployment Rate at 25%, Chicago Is One of the Worst in Nation for Black Workers

Chicago StreetsAn alarming 25 percent of Black residents in Chicago are jobless, making it the fifth-highest in that dubious category among the nation’s most populated cities.

Chicago’s residential segregation is one of the factors for this high figure, according to The Chicago Reporter. Nearly 75 percent of Black Chicagoans live in a community that’s at least 90 percent Black, according to Census data. Blacks account for nearly one-third of the Chicago’s population.

In 2010, Chicago was ranked the fifth most segregated city out of the top 50 metro areas with the largest Black populations in the U.S., behind Detroit, Milwaukee, New York and Newark.

Michael Dawson, a scholar on politics and race, told The Reporter that Chicago’s “extreme segregation” deprives many residents of the predominantly Black South and West sides of adequate public transit and job networks. He said people get hired through networks and that most people’s social networks are predominantly within their own race.

Despite the country’s unemployment rate at 5.9 percent, the Black unemployment rate still sits at 2.2 times higher than whites, a phenomenon that the nation has seen for decades.

“You get neighborhoods where not only do you not have a job, you don’t know many other people who have one and can help you get one,” Valerie Wilson, an economist who heads the Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank, told The Reporter.

Lack of opportunities is another major factor in the high unemployment rates for Blacks. According to Wilson, the cities in the Midwest have been hurt by the loss of manufacturing jobs that left the area.

“Manufacturing jobs were such a big part of the economy, and when those  jobs left there were a limited number of opportunities for people who may have had a high school diploma or less,” Wilson said.

Wilson points out that one of the factors causing the Black unemployment rate to be so high is the resiliency of Blacks looking for jobs. Because Blacks spend a longer time on the job search, they continue to be counted as unemployed.

Some blame the high unemployment rates on the job cuts that took out 40 percent of the city workforce since 2009, including the more than 600 layoffs Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel implemented in his first year in office. That doesn’t include the 1,691 public school employees from Black zip codes laid off by the school district during that time, according to the Chicago Reporter.

Dawson claims the Emanuel administration had a pattern of investing “in downtown and well-to-do areas” while the poor, minority communities were neglected.

The Downtown Prosperity Neighborhood Neglect report by the Grassroots Collaborative, a community organizing group, said that just 27 percent of more than 50,000 downtown jobs created between 2002 and 2011 went to Chicago residents.

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