Equity and the Green Recovery

By Yvonne Yen Liu Jun 08, 2009

More depressing numbers about the recession: Unemployment last month was at 9.4 percent, according to the latest figures by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. An additional 787,000 people lost their jobs, most were people of color. Since the recession began in December 2007, payroll employment has fallen by 6 million. Severe job losses continued to plague the manufacturing sector in May, where employment fell by 156,000. Racial disparities in employment are increasing since we last reported these numbers in our report on “Race and Recession: How Inequity Rigged the Economy and How to Change the Rules” (Applied Research Center, May 2009). Blacks were unemployed at 14.9 percent in May; almost double that of whites who are jobless. Latino unemployment was 12.7 percent, almost one and a half times that of whites. Youth continue to be hit hard. Black youth were unemployed at a whopping 39.4 percent and Latino youth not far behind at 31 percent. Over 100 days ago, the Recovery Act was signed into law. $787 billion will trickle down from the federal government on fast track over the next two years, with repercussions for the next ten years. Economists estimate that 3.5 million new jobs will be created by the stimulus, mostly in green sectors such as energy efficient building and bio fuels, areas of growth. 669,000 new jobs will be created in construction and 450,800 in manufacturing.
Green jobs are blue collar jobs that can pave a pathway into the middle class for many people of color who lack access to opportunities and face barriers to employment. But, the Recovery Act doesn’t enforce equity measures in the programs it funds. And, in the government’s haste to distribute the money to provide a jump-start to the economy, we worry that racial and gender equity will not be prioritized. The risk is that the stimulus will fund the status quo, leaving behind people of color in our silent depression. The Applied Research Center is working on an Equity Toolkit to ensure that people of color are included in the recovery. Among our criteria for equity is the demand for race-explicit data collection and analysis of the impact of federally funded programs. And, as programs get implemented, continual monitoring of the equity measures. Stay tuned to our website arc.org/recession for further updates about our Equity and the Green Economy Toolkit. Photo by seaotter22.