July 16, 2009 / 1:35 AM / 10 years ago

U.S. must address high minority jobless rates: think-tank

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Minority jobless rates have spiked sharply higher than those of whites in some states, according to a report released on Wednesday, prompting calls for new job growth efforts and the possible revival of a funding mechanism long opposed by Wall Street.

Clients look for work on computers at Workforce Alliance in West Palm Beach, Florida July 2, 2009. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, issued a report analyzing racial and ethnic jobless rates in the 50 states. It said the 18-month recession has erased many recent gains for minorities because manufacturing, construction and trade jobs, often the easiest for them to obtain, are melting away.

African-American communities for decades have suffered from higher jobless rates than white neighborhoods, a phenomenon that in recent years spread to Hispanic and Asian centers, the EPI report found.

“This report really could not have been written even three to four years ago,” said Stephen Stetson, a policy analyst with Alabama Arise, a Montgomery-based coalition of religious, community and civic groups, who participated in an EPI conference call on the report.

At the end of the first quarter of this year, Alabama’s black jobless rate soared to 15.1 percent from 5.3 in the 2007 fourth quarter. For whites, however, the rate rose to 5.8 percent from 3 percent.

“The shocking thing is, that gap is widening,” Stetson said, citing projections that the gauge could hit 8.7 percent next year.

The national unemployment rate for blacks typically is twice that for whites; for Hispanics, it is 1.5 times higher.

The EPI said the nation must devote extra resources to create jobs in the hardest-hit states.

Ron Baiman, a Chicago-based director with the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability in Illinois, said taxing one side of a stock or derivatives trade at 0.25 percent of the deal’s gross value could raise $500 billion a year for a jobs plan.

Baiman said such a tax also could reduce “the volume of highly leveraged financial speculation,” which some economists say sparked the recession.

New York City, Chicago and other cities with financial exchanges have helped derail previous proposals to impose such a financial transaction tax. A similar levy was imposed from 1914 to 1966.

Economists who back such a tax include Noble prize winners James Tobin and Joseph Stiglitz, Baiman said.

The EPI said the states with the highest unemployment rates for Hispanics in the first quarter of 2009 included Connecticut, whose 14.5 percent rate was 2.5 times the level for whites, and California, which at 14.3 percent was 1.7 times higher than for whites.

The analysts said the data for Hispanics may be too low because some individuals who came to the United States illegally may fear taking part in surveys.

For blacks, Louisiana had the worst comparable rate. They were three times more likely than whites to be jobless. In Alabama, New York, Mississippi and Texas, blacks were more than twice as likely to be unemployed.

Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Dan Grebler

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