Blacks in South insecure about jobs

COLUMBIA, S.C. — More than three out of every five black Southerners are worried they could lose their jobs this year, according to a Winthrop University/ETV poll.

Almost 62 percent of blacks polled Feb. 6-22 in 11 Southern states said they were very or somewhat concerned about the possibility of losing their job in the next year.

That is far higher than the level of concern in the U.S. population as a whole.

The poll included states from Virginia to Texas. Kentucky was not included.

A national poll, conducted Feb. 12-27 for The Associated Press, found 47 percent of Americans said they were worried about losing their jobs.

In questions asked exclusively for The State newspaper, the Winthrop/ETV poll found more than 69 percent of black Southerners think economic conditions in the country as a whole are getting worse.

In each of the states polled, the black jobless rate was significantly higher than the overall unemployment rate.

In Georgia, for example, the average jobless rate in 2008 was 6.4 percent. But the black unemployment rate averaged 10.2 percent.

North Carolina's overall unemployment rate averaged 6.4 percent in 2008; the black jobless average was 8.6 percent.

The great sense of fear gripping many black households is no surprise to William Darity, a professor of African-American studies and economics at Duke University.

"Historically, if black folks have jobs, the jobs are held with fragility," Darity said.

Yet many black Southerners surveyed by Winthrop/ETV said they don't think they have it harder than white residents.

Almost half of those polled — 48.5 percent — said the bad economy has had the same effect on black residents as it has on white residents.

"There may be two factors going on here," Darity said. "Everybody's boat is sinking and sinking rapidly. But there may also be what I call 'the Obama boost.' People are somewhat more optimistic about how their situation compares to that of others."

Almost 80 percent think Obama's Democratic Party is more likely than Republicans to ensure a strong economy.