Black Male Unemployment in Milwaukee at 34%

June 22, 2011  |  

By Alexis Garrett Stodghill

Milwaukee is facing a staggering problem, as black male unemployment in Wisconsin’s largest city has reached an alarming 34%. Jobs for the unskilled used to be plentiful, but in recent years the area has lost 56,000 positions, most of which were in entry-level manufacturing. Today, African-American males just graduating from high school and others without training are finding it difficult to find jobs without the help of programs. CBS News reports:

Just 40 years ago, 8 out of 10 black men were employed. Most found jobs in manufacturing, where a kid coming out of high school used to be able to earn a decent wage and support a family, but not anymore.

Now, Milwaukee has begun a new program which matches high school drop-outs, low-skilled workers, even some ex-felons, with businesses willing to train them. For six months, men like Darius Smith are paid to learn carpentry or electrical installation skills.

“If we provide a little bit of opportunity for them it spreads,” says contractor Troy Reese.

Reese says he was eager to sign up to be a trainer and has taken on some tough cases.

“We’ve had people that are 12 years out of prison, (and) their first job is our job. So we really have to balance out the needs of each applicant,” Reese says.

In the five months since the program started, 124 trainees have signed up. Of that group, 88 are now in transitional jobs and six have landed full-time jobs. None have dropped out.

Programs such as these are assisting a handful of black men at a time, when thousands are at risk of enduring long-term joblessness. Milwaukee has become the first city in America to set up a task force to combat this massive predicament, but it is not the only locale struggling with similar circumstances. America in general is experiencing what has been termed a “mancession” — a recession in which men have lost most of the jobs — with black men being the hardest hit nationwide.

The persistent problem of black male unemployment has yet to be adequately addressed by any community. It is absurd that Milwaukee is the first and only city making a special effort to tackle a conundrum whose permutations touch so many lives. If black males are not working, their lack of income contributes to their mass incarcerations rates, the trials of the poor single mother, and many other social ills. This challenge will not be beaten with a few well-meaning programs, although leaders contributing to them are to be commended.  More municipalities must work in a concerted effort with African-Americans overall if the quandary of black male unemployment will ever be solved.


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