Minneapolis has the largest racial unemployment gap out of any metropolitan area in the nation, according to a recent Economic Policy Institute study that has rightfully raised eyebrows in this city.
The statistic is a sad reflection of many troubling trends in Minneapolis. In particular, the study states that blacks in Minneapolis are almost three times more likely than whites to be unemployed. A myriad of complex factors contribute to this racial disparity, and solutions will not be easy because few people can peg the causes down.
In 2008, Ward 2 City Councilmember Cam Gordon started the City-County Equity in Employment Action Team, aimed at looking into some of those causes. Gordon said the team is developing targets to narrow the racial unemployment gap and will come out with results soon. As Gordon said in an interview: “It’s good to have some information and some goals because it sure does seem like a difficult problem to solve.”
We’re also closely watching a $4 million federal grant program called RENEWMN. Minneapolis and St. Paul will be offering free training in green industries for 500 qualifying residents. To qualify, residents must meet certain criterion, such as being unemployed, having limited English proficiency or being a high school dropout. Most economists agree that job training is effective in mitigating unemployment because it gives people permanent skills rather than temporary handouts.
Gordon’s Action Team should move fast on developing targets to close the racial unemployment disparity with a close eye on the potential of programs like RENEWMN in closing it. We certainly are.