For so many families, the turmoil of the Great Recession still feels too recent. Homes and savings accounts were lost, job prospects were highly uncertain, financial security was nowhere to be found.
Policymakers may try to put those nightmarish years behind us — and tick off each metric that points to continued recovery — but those gains are not happening equally.
The Great Recession devastated many families and further entrenched the economic disparities between the 99 percent and the 1 percent. It further exaggerated differences in earnings and wealth that have allowed some to return to luxurious lifestyles, while many still ask ‘will I ever be able to retire?’
Substantial racial differences, and not just class differences, made both the recession itself, and the recovery, very, very different for white and black Georgians. For black Georgians, an economic recovery is only just beginning, while white communities have been on an upswing for several years.
The Georgia Department of Labor just released April’s jobs data. 140,000 jobs were added to Georgia’s economy over the past year! A job growth rate that beats the national average! A mere 5.5 percent unemployment rate!
But during the official recession, the black unemployment rate in Georgia skyrocketed to 18.7 percent; that means almost one in five black Georgians were unable to find work. The unemployment rate for white folks during this same time never even crossed into the double digits, hitting a high of 9.8 percent in 2010.
Nationally, African Americans experienced home foreclosures at twice the rate of white folks, while black families lost substantially more of their wealth than their white counterparts. The Great Recession impacted every single family, but black families experienced a recession that was much deeper — one that has lasted much longer, than the (still terrible) recession that white communities faced.
Currently, the white unemployment rate is at 3.6 percent in Georgia, which nearly matches the November 2000 pre-recession low for the state. In other words, white Georgia is largely experiencing job opportunities commensurate with the last major economic expansion.
Black unemployment in Georgia just crossed under the double digit threshold, to 8.5 percent, in the past year, for the first time in at least a decade.
As the state celebrates Gov. Deal’s phony “number one for business” status and each new jobs report shows gains, we need to question why Georgians aren’t experiencing this recovery equally or evenly? Georgia has already implemented cuts to security net programs, like food stamps, with even more of the same to come. But not all Georgia communities are actually safely out of the recession, and benefiting from Georgia’s job growth.
At 8.5 percent, the unemployment rate for black folks is more than twice that of the unemployment rate for white folks. We need policies that match, and a real commitment from state leaders to address racial disparities in this state.