Black computer workers have lower unemployment rate

African-Americans in computer manufacturing are the only group of black manufacturing employees to have single digit unemployment rates.

According to the Silicon Ceiling 10: Equal Opportunity in High Technology, the 94,000 blacks employed in computer and electronic manufacturing faced an 11.9 percent unemployment rate in 2008. That rate skyrocketed to 23.6 percent in 2009.

 By August 2010, the unemployment rate for blacks in the industry had declined to 7.3 percent, compared to an overall manufacturing unemployment rate of 19.3 percent for blacks in manufacturing in general.

In fact, by August, black unemployment in computer manufacturing was below the 8.3 percent unemployment rate for all workers in computer manufacturing.

The data suggests that public policy and personal decisions can focus on preparing workers for a transformed economy, where jobs held for the past few decades no longer exist. African-Americans are bearing the brunt of industrial and service unemployment.

For all experienced workers, there was an 8.7 percent unemployment rate in August 2010. By industry, that broke down to 15.1 percent for construction; 10 percent for manufacturing (11.3 percent for durable goods and 8.5 percent for nondurable goods); 9.1 percent for wholesale and retail trade; 6.6 percent for transportation and utilities; 9.3 percent for information; 6.5 percent in finance; 9.9 percent in professional and business services; 6.5 percent in education and health services; 10.6 percent in leisure and hospitality; 9.0 in other services and 4.9 percent in public administration.

For white workers by industry, the overall unemployment rate for experienced workers was 7.9 percent in August 2010. For construction, it was 14.5 percent; for manufacturing, it was 9.2 percent (9.1 percent in durable goods and 6.5 percent in nondurable goods);wholesale and retail trade 8.0 percent; transportation and utilities 5.9 percent; information 9.2 percent; finance 5.7 percent; professional and business services 9.5 percent; education and health care 5.8 percent; leisure and hospitality 9.4 percent; other services 7.9 percent and public administration 4.4 percent.

For African-Americans, the construction unemployment for experienced workers was 24.6 percent; 19.3 percent for manufacturing (18.4 percent for durable goods and 20.4 percent for non-durable goods); wholesale and retail trade 17.6 percent; transportation and utilities 9.3 percent; information 11.0 percent; finance 13.8 percent; professional and business services 20.1 percent; education and health services 10 percent; leisure and hospitality 21.5 percent; other services 15.2 percent; and public administration 7.5 percent.

These statistics are far more informative than the national unemployment rate to gauge the national mood about the economy. Even for whites, the unemployment figures are historically high, at about the level than black unemployment normally tracks.

Double digit unemployment among experienced blacks begins to destabilize neighborhoods, as has happened on a community level as factories moved out of urban areas. Many blacks compensated by moving where the jobs were.

These statistics indicate that race has returned as the dominant variable in employment due to the economic downturn.

The new coping mechanism must be a sharper focus on choosing careers—having indispensible skills and training which are required by growing industries.

Southeastern San Francisco was a typical urban black community after the closure of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, the magnet which brought blacks to the area during World War II. It is now a focus of development due to the rise of the biotechnology industry.

Over the summer, Potrero Progress sought to orient high school students towards biotechnology through a curriculum that infused the accomplishments of the 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology. The result was several students picked for internships with the prestigious California Institute of Regenerative Medicine.