Urban Jobs Act is Needed to Revive the Economy
By James H. Buford â€“ June 2011
Although the recession has officially ended, unemployment is still running rampant in our communities and in the nation as a whole. While the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2010 worked to avoid total economic disaster, there is still a crisis in our midst due to a lack of available jobs. Currently, our nationâ€™s unemployment rate stands at 9.1% with an African American unemployment rate of 16.2% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011). African American youths are also suffering from chronic unemployment at a staggering 41.6 percent. With these numbers in mind you would think that Congress would be busy creating and passing legislation to generate more jobs to further jumpstart the economy but this has not been the case. A majority of Congress has given more focus to balancing the budget, political infighting and other matters rather than working to strengthen the livelihoods of the people whom they serve.
The reason for the slow recovery has been a weak demand for labor due to a weak demand for goods and services and the structural changes of the overall economy. The ending of the housing boom has caused a reshuffling of jobs among businesses, occupations, industries and geographic areas. These developments suggest that future gains in employment will rely more on the creation of new jobs in different businesses, industries and locations. As a result, the movement of unemployed workers into new jobs will be more difficult in this recovery than in previous years. Recently displaced workers will have to go through the process of learning new skills in order to apply for the jobs which are available. While the results of the Recovery Act have been promising, it is imperative for the Department of Labor to continue focusing on preparing Americaâ€™s workforce for the permanent structural changes of the new economy. The new economy is knowledge-dependent, global, entrepreneurial, innovative and rooted in informational technology. A long-term expansion of job training will be needed to advance the skill sets of the American workforce to the permanent shift in economic conditions.
As a result, the National Urban League introduced its 12-point Urban Jobs Rebuild America Plan which recommends action plans to address the immediate needs of unemployed Americans. These measures include: Restoring the Summer Youth Jobs Program as a stand-alone program with its own budget; Creating 100 Urban Jobs Academies to provide job training to at-risk youth and young adults aged 18-24; Developing a National Public-Private Jobs Initiative to create jobs and train urban residents to stimulate economic growth; Boosting minority participation in information and communication technology; Reforming, revising and reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act to focus on preparing and retraining workers for 21st century jobs; Creating Green Empowerment Zones in areas where at least 50% of the population has an unemployment rate that is higher than the state average; Expanding small business lending; initiating tax reform; Establishing and promoting international trade policies; Enacting the Urban Jobs Act to address the problem of unemployed youth; creating an Urban Homesteading Program; and, funding direct job creation.
The Urban Jobs Act, sponsored by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns of New York, will provide federal grant funding to non-profit organizations to offer job training, education and other support services for urban youth and young adults. The Urban Jobs Act seeks to address the problem of unemployment for individuals aged 18 to 24 who are living in urban areas, are not enrolled in secondary or post-secondary school, and are or have been subject to any stage of the criminal justice process. This bill will provide adequate resources for nonprofit organizations to reduce the disproportionate incarceration of minority youth and to prepare eligible young adults for entry into the workforce. In addition, key services offered by the Urban Jobs Program include educational offerings, employment and job readiness activities, and support services.
I strongly encourage everyone to get involved in this effort to support the Urban Jobs Act in order to further stimulate the economy by creating jobs. Now is the time for us to act.