(NNPA)–While the overall economic picture generated optimism for some last year, as the country heads into 2015 a majority of low and middle income Black, Brown and poor Americans still suffer from financial struggles carried over from the Great Recession.
President Barack Obama, at his end of year press conference, spoke of the creation of 11 million new jobs by businesses over a 57-month period. These gains are the result of steps taken early on by this administration to rescue the economy, said the president.
“Almost all the job growth that we’ve seen has been in full-time positions. Much of the recent pickup in job growth has been in higher-paying industries.
And in a hopeful sign for middle-class families, wages are on the rise again,” said Obama to reporters Dec. 19.
According to the White House, the “U.S. economic recovery took a major step forward in 2014, achieving a number of important milestones.”
In its ‘Year in Review: Creating Economic Opportunity for all Americans in 2014,’ among accomplishments the administration touted:
November, 2014 was the best year of job growth since 1999.
Fifteen thousand jobs were added by the manufacturing sector.
The U.S. has the highest graduation rate on record and more Americans earning post-secondary degrees than ever.
The U.S. was on top as the leading oil and gas producer globally.
There was a continued rise in home prices which cut the number of upside down mortgages from a peak of 14 million to less than four million.
Ten million Americans are now insured under the Affordable Care Act and there is a slower rate of rising health care costs.
The federal deficit has been cut by nearly two-thirds.
Additionally, overall unemployment rates continued to fall, averaging in single digits while oil prices decreased globally, meaning lower prices at gas pumps for American consumers.
Growth during the last two quarters for the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is the goods and services consumers purchase, is one economic indi-
cator analysts used when looking at the overall health of the economy noted economist Dr. Julianne Malveaux explained to The Final Call. The third quarter reflected an increase in GDP of five percent, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Personal income increased $54.4 billion, or 0.4%, disposable personal income increased $42.4 billion, or 0.3%, private wages and salaries increased $38.7 billion and goods-producing industries’ payrolls increased $7.3 billion all in November, according to the department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. Government wages and salaries also increased $1.8 billion.
“People are poised to spend. At the same time, there is a clear divide between the top and the bottom,” said Dr. Malveaux.
“You have this bifurcation that says the economy is doing very well and you have people that are saying, ‘but what about me?’ Of course when White America experiences some discomfort, Black America experiences extreme discomfort.
“If I were to summarize the year 2014 there have been macro-economic gains like GDP growth, etc., and micro-economic stagnancy, if not reversals. And so it has not been a stellar year for African Americans. There is vulnerability here in our community that we can’t ignore.”
Blacks continued to make up disproportionately high numbers of the unemployed, lagged behind in income equality and housing disparities and other socio-economic areas in comparison to Whites.
Double-digit unemployment continued to plague Black America in 2014. In the final numbers released by the U.S. Department of Labor for November 2014, the overall unemployment rate was 5.8% or 9.1 million people out of work. The rate for Blacks was 11.1%, for Whites 4.9% and for Latinos 6.6%. December’s numbers will be released in early January 2015.
“While you see a lower unemployment rate the employment population ratio, which means the percentage of people who are actually working, for White men that number is nearly 70%, for Black men the number does not clear 60%,” said Dr. Malveaux.
If it’s wealth you see less, if it’s poverty you see more among Blacks, said Dr. Malveaux, president emerita of Bennett College for Women.
Several reports and analysis released in 2014 reflected continued gaps in key areas.
According to talkpoverty.org, in 2013, there were 11 million Blacks in poverty, the equivalent of 27% of the overall poverty rate. The Black child poverty rate stood at 38.3%. Blacks currently make up between 12-13% of the U.S. population.
Much of the wealth accumulated over the last five years has been stock market gains because the Dow has gone up alongside acceleration in housing values. But few Blacks invest in the stock market and a greater percentage of Whites own their homes compared to Blacks, said Dr. Malveaux.
After the real estate bubble burst, home values finally began to stabilize between 2010 and 2013 but at a rate slower for Blacks. Between those years inflation-adjusted median home values fell by 4.6% for White households and 18.4% for Black households, according to an October report by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank.
Also, the Federal Reserve has artificially kept interest rates low which impacts the Black community, said Dr. Malveaux. “They’ve kept rates low to stimulate employment. Raising interest rates makes it more difficult for businesses to borrow and therefore more difficult for businesses to hire.”
Many businesses have borrowed but the effect has not trickled down to the masses, she explained.
Asians have fully recovered from the recession; Whites have about 90% of what they had before the recession; Latinos have 60% and Blacks have 50%, added Dr. Malveaux.