Los Angeles, CA — Despite their apparent differences, Leslie Dugger and Bjorn Biggles have quite a bit in common.
Dugger, 59, has a graduate degree from USC in policy, planning and development as well as an undergraduate business degree from Shaw University. He is an experienced business executive whose credits include serving as controller of an Internet technology company that did more than $800 million in business, as well as with growing a firm from $2 to $32 million in revenue in about 24 months.
Biggles, 24, is a recent college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communications with a concentration in multi-media, from the University of La Verne, who has worked in retail, customer service and sales.
The commonalties they share are that both are African American men living in the Los Angeles area, who are unemployed, and have been for some time.
They are not alone.
According to a recently released report by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, Mass., Black men have been the biggest losers in the recession that has gripped the nation from 2007-2009.
The report–“The Impacts of the 2007-2009 National Recession on Male Employment in the U.S. Through January 2009; The Massive Concentration of Job Losses Among Males, Specially Black Men and Blue Collar Workers”–found that African American men account for all of the net job losses experienced by Black workers through January 2009, and experienced a higher relatively job loss (6.4%) than any other group of males.
These job losses have been heavily concentrated among workers in blue collar occupations (skilled construction workers, craft workers in manufacturing, production operations workers, transportation operatives and laborer/helpers), in clerical and administrative support occupations and retail sales.
The losses have also been more heavily concentrated among those without a college education.
Biggles is a retail sales casualty. He worked for AT&T in customer service and retail, and they let him go last July.
“I had an unemployed period, then got back into sales in October 2008. I worked at the L.A. Avengers.”
Then the Arena football team season got canceled, and he was laid off again in December. He has not worked since.
The Athens area resident has been looking online and working with the Urban League employment development office, and has even gone on a couple of interviews.
“One job I went to was a security company, but they couldn’t meet my salary (he asked for $11 an hour) even though their Internet posting said the job paid $11,” remembered Biggles.
Dugger has been officially unemployed about one year, and he got that way in a radically different way from Biggles.
“I wanted to do my own thing. I had all the skills, knowledge, and ability, so I went about becoming a personal financial planner in about 2000. Then the economy took a dive, and I’ve never recovered,” said Dugger, who has been unemployed before, but never this long.
“Before if I sent out 10 resumes, I would probably get eight responses. Now I send out a dozen resumes and get zero responses,” noted the Venice area resident.
Dugger recalls one interview where he was interviewed by a panel of recruiters, one of whom said, ‘I can’t believe you’re still on the market.’
“I thought to myself, I won’t be if you make me an offer.”
Dugger said he is not surprised by the report nor is he frustrated about his so far fruitless job search.
“I know my self worth. I know what it’s all about, and I know what I’m all about,” said the financial expert, who also has a larger plan in mind.
“It’s not that I don’t want to work, I don’t want to work for anybody . . . I want to be an employer not an employee.”
Biggles, who said this is basically his first time being unemployed so long, is also not unduly worried about his lack of success obtaining a job.
” . . . You have to stay positive. I’ve been a positive person all my life . . . Whatever we’re going through is temporary, and we are not presented with more than we can handle,” said the La Verne University graduate, who does freelance jobs utilizing his communication skills.
While Biggles and Dugger do not necessarily fit the specific profile of the unemployed, they definitely fall into the broader category that finds 14.9% of African Americans unemployed in May (down from 15% in April) compared to 9.4% for the nation as a whole.