More Latinos Finding Jobs: The Demographics of the Jobs Recovery

by Rakesh Kochhar, The Pew Hispanic

Two years after the U.S. labor market hit bottom, the economic recovery has yielded slow but steady gains in employment for all groups of workers. The gains, however, have varied across demographic groups, with Hispanics and Asians, in particular, experiencing a faster rate of growth in jobs than other groups. Their employment levels are higher now than just before the start of the Great Recession in December 2007, a milestone not yet reached by white and black workers.

The disparate trends in the jobs recovery from 2009 to 2011 reflect the rapidly changing demographics of the American workforce. Although jobs growth for Hispanics and Asians was more rapid than for other groups, it merely kept pace with the growth in their working-age (ages 16 and older) populations. The slower rate of jobs growth for whites and blacks reflects the relatively slow growth in their populations. Thus, the share of each group’s population that is employed, the employment rate, has barely risen since the end of the recession, according to new Pew Research Center analysis of government data.

The story is the same when one looks at the jobs recovery for immigrants and native-born workers. Immigrants, the vast majority of whom are Hispanic or Asian, are experiencing a faster rate of growth in employment than are native-born workers. This difference is also roughly in line with the difference in the growth in their working-age populations during the recovery.

Demographic change, however, does not explain why men have gained more jobs than women since 2009. Among the groups examined in this report, women represent the only group for whom employment growth has lagged behind population growth in the recovery. Job cutbacks by federal, state and local governments is one reason women have lagged behind men in recent years, but a previous analysis by the Center found that much about this phenomenon remains unclear.

The Great Recession triggered a steep, two-year decline in employment. From a peak of 145.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2007, overall employment fell to a low of 138.1 million by the fourth quarter of 2009.2 The labor market has since been on the mend, and in the two-year period ending in the fourth quarter of 2011, employment rose to 141.2 million, a gain of 2.3%.

For Hispanics, the recovery has raised employment from 19.5 million in the fourth quarterof 2009 to 20.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, an increase of 6.5%. For Asians, employment increased from 6.7 million to 7.2 million, or by 6.8%. Gains are smaller for whites, from 95.4 million to 96.4 million (1.1%), and blacks, from 14.3 million to 14.6 million (2.2%).

Over the full cycle of the recession and the recovery, that is, from 2007 to 2011, employment increased from 19.9 million to 20.7 million for Hispanics and from 6.9 million to 7.2 million for Asians, an increase of about 4% for each group. For blacks and whites, employment levels remain about 5% below the levels at the start of the recession, with lingering losses of 4.9 million jobs for white workers and 0.8 million jobs for black workers.

The differences in jobs growth across groups largely reflect the differences in population growth. From 2007 to 2011, the Hispanic working-age (16 and older) population increased by 12.8% and the Asian working-age population increased by 10.9%. However, the white working-age population grew only 1.3%, and the black working-age population increased by 5% in this four-year period. Since much of the addition to the workforce is Hispanic and Asian,4 their share in employment growth is high.

Foreign-born workers are also experiencing a faster rate of growth in employment than native-born workers. In the recovery, from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2011, employment among the native born increased 1.8% (2 million) and employment among the foreign born increased 5.2% (1.1 million). This difference also reflects the difference in the growth in their working-age populations from 2009 to 2011.

Jobs growth for immigrant workers in the recovery has been sufficient to restore their employment to what it was just before the recession began—22.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, compared with 22.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2007. The number of employed native-born workers in the fourth quarter of 2011—118.6 million—was 4.8 million short of the number before the start of the recession.

read the full report at the Pew Hispanic

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