Economic Snapshot | Jobs and Unemployment

African Americans are especially at risk in the auto crisis

Snapshot for December 5, 2008.

African Americans are especially at risk in the auto crisis
by Robert E. Scott and Christian Dorsey, with research assistance from Emily Garr and Jin Dai

The motor vehicle and parts industry, a sector of the economy that has been particularly welcoming to African Americans, is becoming a shrinking island of prosperity.  The share of black workers (14.2%) in automotive industries is much higher than their overall share of the labor force (11.2%), as shown in this Figure. Approximately 118,000 African Americans worked in the auto industry in November 2008, down from 137,000 in December 2007 when the recession began.1
African Americans earn much higher wages in auto industry jobs than in other parts of the economy, and the loss of these solid, middle-class jobs would be a devastating blow.  Hourly wages for African Americans in the motor vehicle industry averaged $17.08 (excluding fringe benefits) in 2007, versus economy-wide average wages for African American of $15.44 per hour.2 African Americans have been particularly hard hit in this recession.  The unemployment rate for blacks increased to 11.2% in November, an increase of 2.8 percentage points over the last year, as shown in today’s EPI Jobs Picture.  The consequences of an auto industry collapse—which could eliminate up to 3.3 million U.S. jobs, as shown in the Briefing Paper When Giants Fall—would be nothing less than catastrophic for African Americans.

1. Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics and EPI analysis of data from the Census Bureau’s “Current Population Statistics, Outgoing Rotation Group” data.
2. EPI Analysis of CPS ORG data.