Twin Cities still worst in U.S. for black jobseekers

  • Article by: RANDY FURST
  • Star Tribune
  • July 3, 2012 - 8:16 AM

The disparity between black and white unemployment in the Twin Cities remains the worst in the nation, according to a new report analyzing 19 metropolitan areas that was issued Monday by a think tank in Washington, D.C.

Unemployment among blacks stood at 17.7 percent in 2011, which was 3.1 times the jobless rate of whites in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. That disparity rate is unchanged from a similar report issued two years ago by the same organization, the Economic Policy Institute. Then the metro area also ranked the worst in the country among selected cities.

"It doesn't surprise me," said Kevin Lindsey, state Human Rights commissioner. "There is still going to be a significant disparity that will not change overnight."

But he said steps had been taken by his department to address the problem. He said the department raised the goal of hiring minorities on state-funded construction projects from 11 to 32 percent in Ramsey and Hennepin counties and from 11 to 22 percent in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Scott and Washington counties.

In the past year there have been a series of local meetings to discuss the disparity, and the reaction to the latest report left several individuals who have spoken out on the issue dismayed.

"Those meetings mean nothing unless there is a plan and an outcome," said Ron Edwards, a longtime civil rights activist. "It is one of the things that is contributing to the instability and violence in the African American community. Our young people have no vision of success or inclusion."

"It's sad and disappointing," said Shawn Lewis, a board member of the St. Paul Foundation's Pan African Community Endowment. "My question is, does anyone care, and if they care, what are they doing?"

Louis King, president and CEO of Summit Academy OIC, a vocational training school, said that whites are still making the decisions on hiring, and hiring these days is "about who you know." He said he did not believe things will significantly change for another decade, when the minority population has grown and becomes more educated.

Tom Gillaspy, the retired state demographer, said his studies indicate that age and education are the driving factors behind the disparity. The majority of the white population is much older, he said. The black population is much younger, migrating from other cities and other countries. And blacks have far less education. While more than 80 percent of whites have a high school diploma, he said, half of blacks graduate from high school.

The overall black unemployment rate has fallen locally, from 21 percent in 2010 to 17.7 percent in 2011, according to the study, putting Minneapolis-St. Paul sixth in the country.

But as far as the ratio of black-to-white joblessness, the Twin Cities area is far and away the worst. Its ratio of 3.1-1 outdistances the metro area with the next worst ratio -- the Baltimore area, which stood at 2.6-1.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

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