New York City is an incredibly diverse town—there are people of different ethnicities, faiths, nationalities, and the list goes on. During good economic times, prosperity is shared. During hard economic times, difficulty is shared, but some demographic groups experience the brunt of it more than others. This report will examine the impact of the recent “Great Recession”—one of the harshest economic downturns in recent history—on employment for key demographic groups within the city, with the finding that young black men ages 16–24 years experienced disproportionally high rates of unemployment and detachment from the labor force.
Only one in four members of this demographic had a job during the period from January 2009 to June 2010. While the U.S. has experienced recessions as well as high unemployment in the past, what makes the recent recession unique is both the sheer magnitude of job loss as well as the length of sustained high unemployment. The definition of a recession is a significant decline in the gross domestic product (G.D.P.) for at least two consecutive quarters, or 6 months. The recent recession officially ended in June 2009; G.D.P. began increasing again in the third and fourth quarters of that year. However, the national unemployment rate has barely budged from 2009, when it averaged 9.3 percent, and just over 15 million people in the U.S. are currently unemployed. The last time the national unemployment rate reached over 9 percent was 1983; at that time, the U.S. economy was emerging from a recession which began in 1981 and ended over a year later. The national unemployment rate steadily crept up from an average of 7.6 percent in 1981 to 9.7 percent in 1982, then fell to 9.6 percent by 1983, and thereafter continued to decline.