BLACK VOICES
09/14/2011 10:44 am ET | Updated Nov 13, 2011

Detroit, D.C. Jobs Programs Seek To Put Unemployed Back To Work

As Obama's American Jobs Act makes its way through Congress and new figures emerge indicating that the country's poverty rate has hit its highest level since 1993, cities like Detroit and Washington, D.C., are taking matters into their own hands.

In D.C., an initiative called "One City One Hire" seeks to encourage metropolitan area employers to commit to hire at least one unemployed District resident. The plan is designed to help jump-start Mayor Vincent Gray's pledge to put unemployed District residents back to work.

One City One Hire is being launched with support from the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, along with several local businesses, associations and universities, and is modeled after Atlanta's highly successful "Hire One" jobs program, which achieved nearly 13,000 new hires within six months of the program's launch, according to a news release. D.C.'s goal is to get area employers to hire 10,000 unemployed residents within the next year.

In Detroit, where unemployment hit 15.7 percent in July, the advent of a two-tier wage system at the Detroit Three automakers (new car assembly plant workers earn about $14 an hour; longtime employees earn double that in one instance) is spiking employment, according to The New York Times.

"For many, the opportunity for steady employment is welcome, even at a lower wage and with no certainty when it might increase," the Times reports. "What was once seen as a desperate move to prop up the struggling auto industry is now considered an integral part of its future."

The system is heralded as a cornerstone for revitalizing one of the country’s most important manufacturing industries. "It has allowed the Big Three (automakers) to reduce labor costs without cutting the pay of incumbent workers. Is it good for the health and competitiveness of the companies? Yes. And is that good for job security? Yes," Kristin Dziczek, a labor analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., told the Times.

A regional economic development agency in Indiana has won federal approval for a program that could attract foreign investors and create up to 2,000 jobs at two industrial facilities, while a program similar to those in D.C. and Atlanta is slated to role out in Greensboro, N.C., by January 2012.

Other urban centers like New York are looking to Obama's plan to help boost employment. According to the Associated Press, "The White House and congressional Democrats estimate that $3 billion that could flow quickly to New York would go to hiring at least 38,800 construction workers to build and upgrade highways, airports, railroads and other transit networks."

In a new national survey, 16 percent of employers said they expect to add to their workforces in the fourth quarter, while 11 percent expect to reduce staffing.

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