While the Black community was once a thriving part of L.A.’s landscape and remains integral to the county’s cultural and economic life, it has long been in critical decline. Manufacturing industries that once employed a large share of Black workers moved offshore, depleting the number of stable and available union jobs. The jobs that remained declined in quality, and as Black unemployment increased, these communities-especially their men-were increasingly criminalized and incarcerated. Despite the enactment of anti-discrimination laws, racist hiring practices demonstrably continue to limit Black employment. As a result of a lack of economic opportunities, widening inequality, and rising housing costs, the Black community in Los Angeles is experiencing a jobs crisis.
The report indicates that economic and social hardship is pushing the Black community out of Los Angeles County. Black people in Los Angeles are significantly more educated than previous generations, yet experience a lower labor participation rate and a significantly higher unemployment rate than white workers.
Among other findings, the study finds:
- Since the 1980s, the Black population in Los Angeles has declined by over 100,000 residents from 13% to 8% while the Inland Empire has gained over 250,000 Black residents
- Black workers with a high school or less education experience unemployment at almost double the rate as white workers at the same education level.
- Black workers are underrepresented in professional jobs and have lower rates in manager and supervisory positions.
- Whether working full or part time, Black workers earn only three-quarters of what white workers earn. For Black women, the wage gap is even more severe.
- Black workers experience a myriad of negative health outcomes due to racial discrimination in employment
The study calls for a stabilization of Black families and communities through the creation of well-paying, quality accessible jobs. Among other solutions, report authors recommend the unionization of Black workers, an expansion of hiring benchmarks that include underrepresented workers, and an institutionalization of partnerships with credible community organizations to implement targeted outreach, recruitment, and retention programs. Through an analysis of current and historical census data, a comprehensive literature review, and the collection of worker’s stories and case studies, the report looks at the experience of the Black community in Los Angeles through a labor and employment lens. It details how the lack of access to quality jobs is adversely impacting the community and draws a portrait of the challenges that Black workers in Los Angeles face.
This report was written in collaboration with the Los Angeles Black Worker Center and the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE).