Originally created 09/22/03

Women, blacks see job losses



COLUMBIA - A round of state agency layoffs that started in July hurt women and blacks more than white men, according to state Budget and Control Board figures.

"That is awful," said state Sen. Maggie Glover, a black Democrat from Florence. "We are causing major devastation to our families," including black single parents.

From July 1 to Sept. 11, 122 women and seven men were laid off. Blacks make up about a third of the work force but received half of all pink slips. Both figures uphold a long-term trend of women and minorities' being more prone to lose state agency jobs than white men, observers say.

"That's kind of warped and one-sided," said Zenda Leaks, a 40-year-old Department of Public Safety lobbyist who was told recently that her job will be cut Oct. 1. Ms. Leaks is worried about paying her mortgage and getting a check next month.

"I'm applying any and everywhere I can, hoping something will pan out," she said.

According to figures compiled by the state, since financial problems began hitting South Carolina agency payrolls in 2001, 439 women and 208 men have been laid off. The job loss has affected 388 whites and 253 blacks.

That means women accounted for 68 percent of the layoffs and blacks accounted for 39 percent, slight increases from figures reflected in a January report by the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission.

The report said women accounted for 58 percent of the state payrolls but 66 percent of the jobs cut. Blacks represented 35 percent of the work force but 37 percent of layoffs.

Chris Drummond, Gov. Mark Sanford's spokesman, had no comment on the layoff figures. The state Human Resources Office is responsible for overseeing the layoff plans, he said.

Given the downsizing needed to curb the state's budget problems, Mr. Sanford's "ultimate goal is to continue to provide services," Mr. Drummond said.

Department of Social Services cuts account for most of the disparity since the fiscal year began in July. Since then, DSS has removed 94 women and two men from the payroll. Because women account for 82 percent of the DSS payroll, more women lose jobs when layoffs hit, said Robin Owens, the agency's human resources director.