On June 26, Mayor Ras Baraka launched a bold initiative to connect 2,020 Newark residents to local work that pays a living wage by 2020. The Institute's research, conducted by Senior Counsel & Director of the Economic Mobility Initiative Demelza Baer and published in the report, Bridging the Two Americas: Employment & Economic Opportunity in Newark & Beyond, formed the foundation of showing why this initiative is necessary and how it can be a success.
Below is a media round-up of the launch of Newark 2020:
At the center of the plan is a study by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. What it shows is that 62 percent of Newarkers are working poor – and two-thirds of residents make less than $40,000 a year. Forty-two percent of kids in the city live below the poverty line. While just about three quarters of Newark residents are people of color, nearly two thirds of workers in the city are white and residents hold just 18 percent of all jobs in the city.
“The disparities in employment in the city of Newark cannot be explained by Newark residents not wanting to work or being unqualified to work,” noted New Jersey Institute for Social Justice President and CEO Ryan Haygood. “Instead, these disparities reflect systematic challenges that require a systematic response.”
Currently, only about 18 percent of jobs in the city are held by people who live there, officials said. But, Baraka and his partners say "Hire. Buy. Live." will drive that percentage up, and the city's unemployment rate down.
Currently, the relationship between Newark residents and job opportunities in town is marked by disparity and compounded by deep racial stratification. According to “Bridging the Two Americas: Employment & Economic Opportunity in Newark & Beyond,” a report released by NJISJ in April of this year, a third of Newark’s black residents live in poverty. Despite people of color comprising more than 70 percent of city residents, 60 percent of those employed at Newark companies are white.
By contrast, in Baltimore and New Orleans, according to the report, residents comprise 33 percent and 46 percent of the cities’ respective workforces. In Newark, a paltry 18 percent of the city’s more than 130,000 jobs are held by residents, and only 10 percent of the jobs that pay annual salaries of $40,000 or more are held by city residents.
Furthermore, while unemployment here is high, Newark’s labor participation rate, which captures the number of people working and looking for work, is on par with the rest of the country. For people of color, the labor participation rate in Newark is higher than average.
Much of this is due to the lack of access to “career pathways” to middle-skill jobs, according to the NJISJ report.
Number of the Day - 62%: The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice has just, “Bridging the Two Americas: Employment and Economic Opportunity in Newark and Beyond,” and its findings are grim. For starters, 62 percent of Newark households qualify as “ALICE,” asset-limited, income-constrained, and employed — a long way of saying “working poor.” They do not earn enough to meet their basic needs for housing, healthcare, food, transportation, and childcare. And while just about three-quarters of Newark residents are people of color, nearly two-thirds of workers in the city are white. Residents hold just 18 percent of all jobs in the city. And unemployment in the state’s largest city in 2015 was 8.8 percent, about 60 percent higher than unemployment statewide (5.6 percent).
Ryan Haygood, the CEO and president of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, referenced the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words in the 1960s about the development of two Americas, split along a racial and an urban/suburban divide.
Newark still faces great economic hardships: 33 percent of the city's African-American residents live in poverty, while only 18 percent of the jobs in Newark are held by city residents.
"These are systematic challenges that require a systematic response. Newark 2020 presents us with a such a special opportunity now," Haygood said. "Fifty years later, perhaps no other city embodies both the reality of the two Americas, and the possibility of bridging that intrinsic divide, than the mighty city of Newark."