2012 June Jobless Statement
July 6, 2012
As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country's slow economic recovery. With this month's release of unemployment rates, we see yet another sign that while economists may say that the recession has ended, the reality of unemployment and under-employment remains true for millions of Americans-particularly those often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery.
The unemployment rate in the month of June remained unchanged at 8.2%. While the total jobless number is 12.7 million, 80,000 jobs were created in June. Still there remains a startling 5.4 million who are long term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) - 41.9% of the unemployed population. Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was 7.8%, adult women 7.4%, whites 7.4%, blacks 14.4%, Hispanics 11%, and Asians 6.3%.
In our current economic environment it is hard enough for an unemployed worker to find a job when they have a college degree, an impressive resume, and a clean record. It becomes close to impossible for the members of our community that have a criminal record to find employment. According to a November 2010 Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), "In 2008, about one in 33 working-age adults was an ex-prisoner and about one in 15 working-age adults was an ex-felon." It is estimated that in 2010, federal and state prisons held over 1.6 million inmates and released over 700,000 individuals back into their communities.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not keep track of the ex-offender unemployment number, but a January 2011 New York Times articles states, "various studies have found unemployment rates of 50 percent or higher for former prisoners nine months or a year after their release."
The recession has allowed hiring managers to be picky among their larger applicant pools. Anecdotal evidence suggests employers are choosing workers with a clean background and continue to hire ex-offenders, regardless of their offense, at a severely decreased rate. As an Arizona Republic articles states, "Even entry-level positions or manual-labor jobs that would be a typical workforce re-entry point for felons have dried up." Many employers conduct background checks. In addition, in some states a felony conviction limits a person's ability to apply for certain jobs including government employment and professional licensing.
While states across the country are experiencing their own budget crises, they are choosing to release thousands of prisoners rather than deal with the increasing costs of keeping them incarcerated. At the same time, rehabilitation funding- including The Second Chance Act- is dwindling. Without the proper skills and support systems, ex-convicts are finding it increasingly difficult to find steady work, which directly affects a person's ability to remain out of trouble and avoid criminal activity. The failure to find stable work is directly related to the recidivism rate.
As Thomas O'Connell, deputy chief of administration for the Maricopa County Adult Program Department stated in a June 13, 2012 interview, "When someone maintains employment, this demonstrates stability, provides a source for positive social interactions and provides a means for financial stability, including the ability to support a family and meet their financial obligations." Considering how beneficial a good job can be, the ex-offender and ex-prisoner population is facing an uphill battle at a time of stalled economic recovery.
As we consider these monthly reflections on our economy's health, we remind our elected officials that they must soon create and debate legislation that aims to create jobs and strengthen our economy without forgetting about those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship, including ex-offenders. As scripture tells us, "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body." (Hebrews 13:3).
You can find DHN's Jobs Statement of Principles at http://domestichumanneeds.org/uploads/DHN-Jobs-Statement-of-Principles.pdf.
American Friends Service Committee
Bread for the World
Church of the Brethren
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Interfaith Worker Justice
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Mennonite Central Committee U.S., Washington Office
National Advocacy Center Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches
National Council of Jewish Women
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Office of Social Justice and Hunger; Christian Reformed Church in North America
Sisters of Mercy Institute Justice Team
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
The United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society