PLANNED DESTRUCTION: Coronavirus lockdowns eliminated African American employment gains from the past decade

Saturday, June 13, 2020
By Paul Martin

by: Franz Walker
Friday, June 12, 2020

Efforts to stall the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) not only brought the economy to a halt, but they also ended what had been the best African American job market on record.

The decadelong economic expansion brought with one of the most promising economies for African Americans in recent memory. Not only did their unemployment reach record lows, but their wages had also risen modestly.

All that changed when the global coronavirus pandemic hit U.S. shores.

Shutdowns set African Americans back

When measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus shut down businesses in March, a number of black people who had benefitted from the past decade’s economic expansion found themselves without jobs.

Anthony Steward, a Milwaukee cook was one of those. In 2018, Steward had left his $10.5-an-hour job at a corporate cafeteria for one paying $15 at Fiserv Forums. Here, at the home of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Milwaukee Bucks, Steward found himself serving steaks, chicken wings and eggplant mozzarella for luxury-box guests, including Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and rapper Ja Rule.

That all ended in March after the NBA suspended its season due to COVID-19. After losing his job, Steward eventually found himself ill and was subsequently diagnosed with the disease.

“It was like everything was falling into place, and now it’s all paused,” said Steward, who doesn’t know if he’ll return to his old job. The NBA’s July 31 return is set to take place in isolation at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, far from the Milwaukee stadium where Steward used to work.

In addition, Steward is also concerned about the healthcare bills he’ll have to take care of once he’s recovered. However, even if he does get a job, he suspects that he’ll have to take a pay cut as many in the food-service industry are unemployed.

Black people gained a lot in the past decade, but they were still vulnerable
For most people in the U.S., double-digit unemployment rates may be unfamiliar territory, but it isn’t something African Americans haven’t seen before. From September 1974 through November 1994, unemployment within the black community topped at 10 percent.

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