October Jobless Statement
October 7, 2011
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 September remained unchanged at 9.1%. While the total jobless number is 14 million, 103,000 jobs were created in September. Still there remains a startling 6.2 million who are long term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more). Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was 8.8%, adult women 8.1%, whites 8%, blacks 16%, Hispanics 11.3%, and Asians 7.8%.
In June 2011 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report, "Persons with A Disability: Labor Force Characteristics 2010," which found that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 14.8% in 2010; this is compared to the 9.4% rate for those with no disabilities. An August 16th Forbes.com article states, "Americans with disabilities are experiencing a jobless rate more than 80 percent higher than the rest of Americans." The report also found that "among each age group, persons with a disability were much less likely to be employed than those with no disability." Unemployed persons are defined as "those who did not have a job were available for work, and were actively looking for a job in the 4 weeks preceding the survey," differentiating them from the significant percentage of people with disabilities who fall into other categories such as "not in the labor force" (about 8 in 10 people with disabilities in 2010).
Persons with disabilities were also more likely to be self-employed than those with no disability. Alternative forms of employment are often times beneficial to people with disabilities, including self-employment and telecommuting. Still these areas have also been affected by the recession. Those who are self-employed might struggle to make ends meet and will not have the assistance that larger businesses benefit from. And some employers might be resistant to changes in traditional work settings, like telecommuting, when they have other budgetary pressures and concerns.
The report also found that a slightly larger proposition of workers with disabilities work part time for economic reasons because their hours had been cut back or they were unable to find a full-time job. Despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, anecdotal evidence suggests that people with disabilities continue to be discriminated against in the workplace, including throughout the hiring process. This extra barrier makes it that much harder for an unemployed worker with a disability to find full-time employment.
The disability community has been hit particularly hard by the recession. Many of the programs they rely on for healthcare, housing, job training, and food assistance have been significantly cut. As we consider these monthly reflections of our economy's health, we remind our elected officials that they must act now on legislation that aims to create jobs and strengthen our economy for those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship, including people with disabilities. As scripture tells us, "Speak up for the voiceless, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy." Proverbs 31:8-9.
American Friends Service Committee
Bread for the World
Church of the Brethren
The Episcopal Church
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Interfaith Worker Justice
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
The Jewish Federations of North America
Mennonite Central Committee U.S., Washington office
National Advocacy Center Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Jewish Women
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Office of Social Justice and Hunger; Christian Reformed Church in North America
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness
Sisters of Mercy Institute of Justice Team
Union for Reform Judaism
The United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society