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UW-Milwaukee - Center for Economic Development

Policy Research Report Abstract

After the Boom: Joblessness in Milwaukee Since 2000, by Marc V. Levine

Executive Summary

Recently released employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirm that Milwaukee remains in the throes of a "stealth depression" of joblessness. In the aftermath of the 1990s economic boom, Milwaukee's employment picture deteriorated faster and more extensively than in other cities between 2000-2002 -- even as Milwaukee's suburban labor markets remain solid. By 2002, 42.9 percent of working-age residents of the city of Milwaukee did not hold jobs. For black Milwaukeeans, the situation is even bleaker. In 2002, an astounding 58.8 percent of working-age African American males in the city of Milwaukee were jobless, by far the highest rate of joblessness found in any of the cities surveyed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Racial disparities in employment in both metro Milwaukee and the city of Milwaukee are the highest in the country. In 2002, black male joblessness in metropolitan Milwaukee was 29.2 percentage points higher than white joblessness; only one other metro area (Kansas City) had a racial gap higher than 20 points. The black jobless rate was 25.7 percentage points higher than the white rate in the city of Milwaukee.

By any reckoning, the city of Milwaukee faces nothing short of an employment crisis for black males.

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