Press Release Economic Policy Inequality Jobs United States

Ending High Black Joblessness and Moving Toward Black Full Employment

September 08, 2022

Contact: KL Conner, 202-281-4159Mail_Outline

First in a Series, New Report Examines the Equity Potential of a Subsidized Employment Program

Washington — For the past two generations, since at least the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the Black community has been plagued by higher levels of joblessness. In a new report — the first in a series proposing solutions to the problem of Black joblessness — CEPR’s Algernon Austin and Annabel Utz argue for a subsidized employment program to finally break the two-to-one, Black-to-white unemployment rate ratio.

Toward Black Full Employment: A Subsidized Employment Proposal outlines the need for such a program, the key features necessary to successfully target Black joblessness, and the complementary policies that will make it most effective. Additionally, the authors highlight notable precedent via the 1939 subsidized employment program by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). They also assess the program’s impact at the federal, state, and local levels, noting that ​​federal funding and administration may be preferable.

Key findings include:

  • A subsidized employment program can move the Black community toward full employment;
    Black America has a jobs deficit of nearly 1.5 million jobs, which translates to roughly $70 billion in lost income for the community each year;
  • Historically, subsidized employment programs have successfully put the jobless back to work, as supported by recent meta-analysis. In 1939, WPA’s subsidized employment program created over 400,000 jobs for Black Americans, which is equivalent to 1.4 million jobs today;
  • Targeting communities with persistently low prime-age employment reaps millions in economic benefits. Ensuring employment equity in Washington, DC’s 7th and 8th wards could mean an additional $550 million for the majority-Black community; and
  • Additional policies are needed to complement — not substitute — a subsidized employment program, such as those that maintain a low national unemployment rate and address anti-Black racial discrimination in the labor market.

“Black workers are continually confronted with unequal, recessionary levels of unemployment — even outside of economic downturns,” said Algernon Austin, Director of Race and Economic Justice. “A subsidized employment program offers policymakers a clear legislative pathway to address this long-standing problem and to reach full employment for Black America by intentionally targeting high-unemployment communities.”

As part of a series, CEPR will be issuing additional reports to highlight the problem of Black joblessness and to offer comprehensive solutions. 

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