The Great Recession, Jobless Recoveries and Black Workers

Published in Focus Magazine, Vol. 38(1): 3-5. October/November, 2010.

The economic downturn, which began in December 2007, aptly has been called the Great Recession. The trough of job losses occurred in December 2009, by which time 8.4 million or 6.1 percent of all non-farm jobs were lost. This represented the largest decline of jobs (in either absolute numbers or percentage terms) since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

In response to this ongoing crisis, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—a spending and tax relief package that totaled $787 billion. While the ARRA provided much needed relief and stimulus, the size and scope of the package was not in proportion to the enormity of the crisis. Too much of it was geared to ineffective tax cuts instead of direct job creation, and the crisis proved to be much worse than originally thought. Today the unemployment rate remains elevated at 9.5 percent and many economists worry that the country is, at best, in a jobless recovery similar to what occurred after the 1990 and 2001 recessions. At worst, we may be heading into a dreaded double-dip. For the black community, the Great Recession has been catastrophic, and the prospect of a jobless recovery or further recession will extend the widespread economic and social woes in which much of the community is now mired.