REPORT: Minorities Struggle in the Labor Market

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jason Rahlan
Phone: 202.481.8132
Email: jrahlan@americanprogress.org

REPORT: Minorities Struggle in the Labor Market

Minorities and the Labor Market in the Recession by the Numbers

WASHINGTON - The economy shed 598,000 jobs in January alone, and the nation's
unemployment rate reached 7.6 percent for the first time in more than
16 years. Since the beginning of the recession in December 2007, the
economy has lost a staggering 3.6 million jobs-1.8 million in just the
last three months-while the unemployment rate has jumped 2.7 percentage
points. Even before the recession struck, minorities faced a more
precarious economic situation than whites, especially in the labor
market. Now, 13 months into the downturn, it is clear that they have
been hit hard.

The following numbers* highlight the dramatic losses in employment
that have battered Hispanics, African Americans, and whites since the
recession began. The grim reality underscores the need for the economic
recovery package that Congress and the president enacted yesterday.

The unemployment rate has steadily risen for all groups.

9.7 percent: The unemployment rate for Hispanics in January
2009, an increase of 3.5 percentage points from December 2007 and the
highest level since 1995.

12.6 percent: The unemployment rate for African Americans in
January 2009, an increase of 3.7 percentage points since December 2007
and the highest level since 1994.

6.9 percent: The unemployment rate for whites, an increase of 2.5 percentage points since December 2007 and the highest level since 1983.

The number of unemployed people in the United States has
skyrocketed since the recession began, and the rate of increase has
accelerated in recent months.

57.1 percent: The increase in the number of unemployed
Hispanic workers between December 2007 and January 2009. In January
2009, 2.1 million Hispanics were unemployed in the United States.

43.8 percent: The increase in the number of unemployed
African Americans from December 2007 to January 2009. In January 2009,
2.2 million African Americans were unemployed.

58.0 percent: The increase in the number of unemployed whites
between December 2007 and January 2009. In January 2009, there were 8.6
million unemployed whites in America.

The share of the population that has a job has fallen to levels not seen in more than a decade.

61.1 percent: The share of the Hispanic population that was
employed in January 2009, 3.2 percentage points lower than in December
2007 and the lowest level since 1996.

55.4 percent: The share of the African-American population
that had a job in January 2009, 2.4 percentage points lower than in
December 2007 and the lowest level since 1994.

61.3 percent: The share of the white population that had a
job in January 2009, 2.1 percentage points lower than in December 2007
and the lowest level since 1986.

Large earnings gaps persist between whites and minorities.

$535: The usual median weekly earnings of Hispanic workers in
the fourth quarter of 2008 (in 2008 dollars)-$207.20 less than white
workers' usual median weekly earnings during the same period.

$593: The usual median weekly earnings of African American
workers in the fourth quarter of 2008 (in 2008 dollars)-$148.57 less
than white workers' usual median weekly earnings during the same period.

$748: The usual median weekly earnings of white workers in the fourth quarter of 2008 (in 2008 dollars).

The recovery and investment bill that President Barack Obama signed
into law yesterday will help the U.S. economy avert a continuation of
the recent downward spiral. An important part of stimulating the
economy is stopping the massive job losses and spurring new job growth.

It may be many months before the labor market and overall economy
begin to feel "on track" again for America's families. With the right
policies in place-those that encourage the growth of good jobs with
higher wages and better benefits and lay the foundation for long-term,
broadly shared economic growth-minority workers can begin to strengthen
their financial security and see their labor market experience improve.

*Note: All figures are expressed in seasonally adjusted terms and
all calculations rely on data taken from the BLS' Current Population
Survey and Current Employment Statistics.

This report is also available in Spanish. Léalo en español

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