Last month, a report by the National Urban League found the unemployment rate in the African-American community had risen to 15.5 percent. This number nearly doubles the nation’s overall unemployment rate of 8.8 percent.
In their 2011 State of Black America report, the Urban League identified unemployment as the most important issue facing the Black community. Their report outlines 12 concrete methods for reducing the unemployment rate.
“They’re not difficult to implement, but there must be the will and the commitment to accomplish them. By doing nothing, we guarantee that the recovery will not produce enough jobs to hire everyone who wants to work,” said Urban League President Marc Morial. “Furthermore, many of the initiatives will pay for themselves by allowing citizens to become taxpayers and to create jobs in expanding businesses.”
To kick off their campaign, the Urban League hosted the first State of Black America town hall meeting focusing on the jobs crisis in urban America. Together with Howard University, one of the nation’s historic Black universities, the groups met with congressmen and senators in Washington, D.C.
“As we stated at the Town Hall, we must not let other major concerns, including war and partisan fights about deficit reduction, distract us from the number one issue facing the American people—jobs, jobs, jobs,” Morial said. “The National Urban League’s nearly 100 affiliates across the country haven’t lost that focus. We remain economic first responders for millions of Americans desperately seeking to rebuild their lives, families and communities in the wake of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.”
Generally, “A Dozen Dynamic Ideas for Putting America Back to Work: The National Urban League’s 12-Point Job Creation Plan” calls for an increase in urban jobs in fields including technology and broadband; healthcare; manufacturing; urban transportation/water community facilities infrastructure; and clean energy.
“Jobs are essential to self-dignity and worth and economic independence. Working is the cornerstone of the American dream,” Morial said. “In many cases, health care and the ability to provide shelter for your family is tied to employment as well.”
The essay included in the Urban League’s publication places emphasis on jobs for youth and young adults. The first step calls for the restoration of the Summer Youth Jobs Program through a $5 to $7 billion dollar investment projected to create five million jobs. The second step calls for the creation of 100 urban job academies, which would be an extension of the Urban League’s urban youth empowerment program.
“Training is key for many in the Black community but the availability of enough jobs is a far bigger problem,” Morial said.
Several points focus on providing more opportunities for minority businesses including expanding small business lending. The fourth step specifically calls for a boost in minority participation in community and information technology.
Some of the other solutions in the 12 steps are less direct and include broader government action including steps eight and nine. These steps call for the government to initiate tax reforms and to promote multilateral international trade policies. The eleventh step calls for an urban homesteading program to be funded with $500 million for housing counseling agencies.
“Most of our 12 steps combine public and private actions,” Morial said. “What the public can do is support small businesses. Vote with your dollars and support businesses that are creating jobs in your community.”
(To see a copy of the Urban League’s 12-point plan or to read the many other essays in the publication www.iamempowered.com/soba/2011/read/sobaonlinereader.)