California unemployment rate stays above 12%, while black unemployment at extremely high levels nationwide

The Golden State’s July 2010 unemployment numbers came out in a report by California’s Employment Development Department Friday, and they don’t look good.

With over two million unemployed, California’s unemployment rate is 12.3%, which is just half a percent more than last year’s rate of 11.8% during the same month, but nearly 3% higher than the national unemployment rate of 9.5% for July 2010.

While some commentators might spin this as a good, or at least “not so bad” sign because it means that unemployment in California is holding steady and showing signs of possible improvement (like the LA Times did when California’s unemployment numbers for February came out earlier this year), these unemployment figures should be read as bad news for two reasons.

1) It’s easy to put on your happy face and say “Oh good- unemployment’s holding steady!” when you have a job, but for the unemployed, steady unemployment isn’t good news at all. Things might (or might not) look brighter in the long term, but families eat in the short term. And for California’s taxpayers, businesses, and social services, the dragging unemployment is a terrible burden.

2) The national average rate of unemployment for the same month was 9.5%, making California above average- in a bad way- once again. There are at least two plausible explanations for this: Because California is a “donor state,” paying millions more into Washington D.C.’s complex bureaucracy than it gets back, California businesses may create fewer jobs because they shoulder an unfair tax burden. Also, because California unions simply have a stranglehold on the state’s businesses and government, and as a matter of uncontroversial, textbook economics, union activity tends to drive up unemployment rates.

But break down unemployment figures by race, and the numbers tell a grim tale: for all the racial sanctimony and race-baiting by certain groups and media personalities, there seems to be hardly a peep over the sharp contrast between black unemployment rates and the rates for the rest of the country.

While white males in the United States had a 9.5% unemployment rate for July, black males experienced a whopping 17.8% unemployment rate, nearly twice that of their white counterparts, according to the recent “Work in the Black Community” report from University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education.  And recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that unemployment rates for black teens aged 16 – 19 was 40.6% for July.

Who is to blame for the vastly disproportionate unemployment rates for blacks in this country? Again, I submit that unions might have something to do with it. 

Unions are primarily dominated by whites and hispanics, women, and middle-aged workers (with a nationwide average age of 45, according to a Forbes report earlier this year). The average age of union workers has been growing since the early 1980s, and the two fastest growing demographics within unions over the same time period has been women and hispanics. 

All of the data show a disproportionate level of unemployment for workers who do not belong to these demographics. Young, black, male workers are unemployed at a rate of 40.6% while union ranks continue to swell with older, white or hispanic, female workers. Unions forcibly negotiate higher wages and more benefits for their members- especially unionized government workers- and in doing so, artificially drive up the cost of labor.

  The result is that union members get higher wages and more benefits at the expense of poor black workers who cannot find a job, and black teens who cannot gain valuable work experience to learn, build their resume, and climb the socio-economic ladder. 

The unemployment situation in the United States and especially in California is horrifying. To consider that black workers suffer that horror at nearly twice the rate of their white counterparts should be taken as a moral reproach of the worst kind to this “post-racial” nation.