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Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, 2009

Overview he U.S. job market continued to deteriorate in 2009, and all major race and ethnicity groups continued to experience labor market difficulties. For the second year in a row, employment fell more sharply for Blacks and Hispanics than for Whites and Asians. Unemployment rates remained especially high for Blacks and Hispanics in 2009, reaching 14.8 percent for Blacks and 12.1 percent for Hispanics. These figures were much higher than the unemployment rates for Whites and Asians, at 8.5 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively. T

In general, the labor market problems experienced by Blacks and Hispanics are associated with many factors, not all of which are measurable. Some of these factors include a tendency to be employed in occupations with high levels of unemployment, lower average levels of schooling, greater concentration in the central cities of urban areas where job opportunities may be relatively limited, and the likelihood of discrimination in the workplace. These factors and others may help explain the acute labor market difficulties Blacks and Hispanics encounter, especially during economic downturns.

This report describes the labor force characteristics and earnings patterns among the major race and ethnicity groups and provides detailed data through a set of supporting tables. These data are obtained from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly survey of 60,000 households that is a rich source of information on the labor force. For definitions of terms and concepts used in this report, see the Technical Note on page 47. Additional information about the CPS can be found at http://www.bls.gov/cps/documentation.htm.

Labor force participation

  • From 2008 to 2009, the overall labor force participation rate declined by 0.6 percentage point to 65.4 percent. The decrease in labor force participation in 2009 occurred across all of the major race and ethnicity groups, although the largest declines occurred among Blacks and Asians. Over the year, the labor force participation rate of Blacks declined by 1.3 percentage points to 62.4 percent, and the labor force participation rate of Asians was down by 1.0 percentage point to 66.0 percent. The participation rates of Hispanics and Whites both declined by 0.5 percentage point, to 68.0 and 65.8 percent, respectively. (See tables 1 and 2.)


  • From 2008 to 2009, the employment-population ratios (the proportion of the population that is employed) fell for all race and ethnicity groups, reflecting continued declines in employment. The declines were largest for Blacks and Hispanics; the rate for Blacks fell by 4.1 percentage points to

    • 53.2

      percent, and the rate for Hispanics fell by 3.6 percentage points to 59.7 percent. The employment- population ratios for Asians and Whites fell by 3.1 and 2.6 percentage points, to 61.2 and 60.2 percent, respectively. (See tables 1 and 3.)

  • In 2009, the employment-population ratios fell more steeply for men than for women, across all race and ethnicity groups. The decline was largest for Black men, whose employment-population ratio fell by 5.4 percentage points to 53.7 percent from 2008 to 2009. The decline in employment-population ratio was smallest for Asian men, with a 3.5-percentage-point decline to 68.7 percent.

  • Among adult men (age 20 and older), Hispanics had the highest employment-population ratio (73.5 percent) in 2009, followed by Asians (72.2 percent) and Whites (68.7 percent). The employment- population ratio for Black men, at 58.2 percent, remained lower than the ratios for men in other groups in 2009, continuing a long-term pattern. Among adult women, Asians had the highest employment- population ratio, at 56.7 percent, followed by Whites

    • (56.3

      percent) and Blacks (56.1 percent). Unlike the ratio for Hispanic men, the ratio for Hispanic women

    • (52.9

      percent) was lower than that of their Asian, Black, and White counterparts. (See table 1.)

  • Among teenagers ages 16 to 19, the employment- population ratio tends to be higher for Whites than for Hispanics, Asians, and Blacks. In 2009, the ratio for White teens (31.7 percent) was about twice that of the ratios for Asian (15.3 percent) and Black (16.5 percent) teenagers. The ratio for Hispanic teens was 23.7 percent. All teenage groups continued to experience declines in their employment-population ratios in 2009, reflecting, at least in part, the downturn in the economy.


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