Layoffs in Georgia pound white men

Finding based on jobless claims. Yet many workers can't file.

The recession in Georgia has hit all demographic groups hard, but men have been hit harder and white men pounded the hardest of all, according to a report issued Tuesday by the state Department of Labor.

Not only have white men been laid off in much higher numbers than any other group, but they are now the largest group of workers receiving unemployment benefits in the state.

So far during the recession, the number of males drawing jobless benefits has leaped 160 percent. The number of white males is up 211 percent.

Men account for 57.6 percent of all those receiving benefits, according to the Labor Department. Before the recession began at the end of 2007, black women were the largest group receiving benefits (27 percent).

The demographic shift reflects the course of the recession: the economic storm has savaged fields in which men were highly represented and barely bruised sectors in which many women work.

The state's jobless rate in June, announced last week, hit a record 10.1 percent. Nearly all industry categories have lost jobs, but those hammered worst have been manufacturing, construction and real estate-related businesses, as well as financial services. Virtually the only private-sector job growth has been in health care and education.

"Manufacturing and construction are two male-dominated sectors," said Michael Thurmond, state labor commissioner. "Education and health care are female-dominated sectors."

The conclusions are based on jobless claims, but not everyone who is laid off can —- or will —- file a claim. For instance, if the worker is paid in cash and is not declaring the income. Or if the worker is a noncitizen working illegally.

Thurmond said he believes that the overall picture is similar to that of those who do file. But fewer than half of the nearly 500,000 unemployed are receiving benefits.

That uneven damage is evident in the lines at the Labor Department offices. Since the recession began, African-American women have dropped from 27 percent of all claimants to 20.7 percent of people getting benefits. Over that same period, white men have gone from 25.2 percent to 33.5 percent of those receiving benefits.

Few Latinos are among those receiving benefits, even though many Latinos were among work crews building homes in metro Atlanta during the height of the boom. At the time, there was speculation that the affordability of housing was because of builders' under-the-table pay or the use of illegal workers.

That charge has some support in the data: When the boom went bust, few of those workers filed for jobless benefits.

"They are not in the numbers," Thurmond said. "Draw your own conclusions."

The state won't pay benefits to workers paid "off the books" in cash or noncitizens working illegally.

A layoff is typically tougher psychologically for men than women, Thurmond said. But coping is critical and many men are not adapting fast enough, he said: Roughly six of every 10 workers laid off are male, but men make up fewer than one-third of training programs or enrollments in technical schools.

Increasingly, those not receiving benefits are men who are exhausting their unemployment benefits while still unable to find a job, Thurmond said.

The report was triggered in February during a talk Thurmond gave to a group of roughly 300 job seekers at a Roswell church. "About 85 percent of them were men and 95 percent of those were white men," Thurmond said. "I walked out of there thinking, something is going on."

Georgia's unemployment insurance claims

Change in the number of claimants in Georgia by selected demographic categories between December 2007 and May 2009.

10,000

34,136

Dec. 2007

May 2009

8,000

6,000

4,000

2,000

0

White males

Females, total

Males, total

African-American males

African-American females

White females

88,612

31,754

65,318

16, 581

51,562

16,120

33,197

12,825

30,720

17,777

31,789

Source: Georgia Department of Labor