Black workers in Los Angeles face a ‘jobs crisis,’ UCLA report says


Black people living in Los Angeles County have been more likely than the rest of the population to remain unemployed or to drop out of the workforce altogether in the wake of the 2007-09 recession, according to a new report conducted by UCLA.

Black workers have lost blue-collar jobs at about the same rate as whites in the county, but seem to be less likely to find replacement work, according to the UCLA analysis.

Seventeen percent of black workers were unemployed on average from 2011 to 2014, compared with 9% of white workers, according to the report, published Tuesday in conjunction with the Los Angeles Black Worker Center.


A quarter of black workers who had a high school degree or less were unemployed, compared with 14% of white workers.

Education helped bridge that gap, but didn’t erase it. Nine percent of black workers with at least a bachelor’s degree were unemployed over that period, compared with 7% of white Angelenos.

“Los Angeles is in the throes of a Black jobs crisis,” the report says.

The lack of work is part of the reason many black residents have abandoned Los Angeles altogether, at a time when the county’s population boomed, the report says. The black population in the county plunged by 122,032 people from 1980 to 2014, according to the report. The county has gained around 2.5 million residents overall during that time.

In the meantime, black workers have flocked to the Inland Empire, which includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Those counties gained a combined 260,494 black residents from 1980 to 2014.

“Black workers are often the last hired and first fired,” says Lola Smallwood Cuevas, the founder of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center. “If we don’t address the crisis, we will have a city and a county where there are no black workers.”

Construction has offered a lot of new jobs to Angelenos over the last several decades, but those positions don’t seem to be going to black workers. There were 7,012 black workers in construction in 2014, 2,000 fewer than there were in 1980, according to census data analyzed by UCLA.


That 23% drop compares with an overall increase of 120,840 construction workers of all races during those 34 years, or 80%.

Those new jobs aren’t going to white workers, either. There were nearly 40,000 fewer white construction workers in Los Angeles in 2014 compared with 1980, a decline of about 40%.

Latinos, however, have significantly upped their representation. There were more than 185,000 Latino construction workers in Los Angeles in 2014, five times as many as there were in 1980.

Manufacturing has been slashing jobs in the county over the last three decades. The number of black and white Angelenos in manufacturing declined by the same rate — about 77% — from 1980 to 2014. Latinos also lost some ground, but their ranks shrank by only 5% over the same period.

“The way that we heard in the Rust Belt we lost middle-class manufacturing jobs, you could say the same for black workers here in L.A.,” says Saba Waheed, a researcher at the UCLA Labor Center who co-authored the study.


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