United States Department of labor

The Asian-American Labor Force in the Recovery

Asian-Americans and Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are a growing share of the United States labor market. They are also a diverse population who identify their ethnicity as Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and several other ethnicities. Aggregate numbers show that the Asian-American community as a whole exhibits better labor market outcomes than other racial groups, but the aggregate measurements veil the wide variations within this highly diverse group. Numbers broken down by gender, by age and by country of origin, illustrate that there exists significant disparity within those who identify their race as Asian. These numbers demonstrate that some Asian Americans face greater challenges and therefore need more attention and assistance than the overall data suggest.

The Asian-American Labor Force in General

In 2010, the United States labor force included 7.2 million people of Asian descent1 and 0.4 million people of Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Island descent.2 Together these two groups were 5.0 percent of the labor force in 2010. Asians are expected to comprise 5.6 percent of the U.S. labor force by 2018.3

In 2010, nearly 60 percent of Asian-Americans aged 16 and over were employed and just under one in six of those employed were working part-time. Forty-six (46) percent of all employed Asians in 2010 were women, similar to the percentage among employed whites, but lower than the figure of 50 percent among Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders. The labor force participation rate of Asian-American women (57.0 percent) in 2010 was lower than the labor force participation rate of white women (58.5 percent) and of Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander women (65.5 percent).

Asian-Americans are more likely than either whites or blacks to be employed as wage and salary workers in the private sector, with more than 8 in 10 employed Asians working in the private sector. Conversely, Asians are less likely to work for government than are either whites or blacks. Self-employment is a growing alternative to private sector wage and salary employment among Asians. In 2010, 6.3 percent of Asians were self-employed. According to the most recent Census Bureau Survey of Business Owners (2007), the number of Asian-owned businesses expanded at a rate (40.4 percent), a rate that more than doubles the national average between 2002 and 2007.

The median wage of Asian- Americans is higher than other racial groups. Half of Asian-Americans working full-time earned $855 or more per week in 2010. This median weekly wage exceeds that earned by whites by nearly 12 cents for every dollar. Asian-Americans’ median weekly earnings have consistently been greater than those earned by whites during the last decade; the difference reached a high of 16 cents in 2008 and 2009 before declining in 2010.

One reason that median wages are higher for Asian-Americans is because a much larger proportion of Asians are college graduates: 57.5 percent of employed Asian-Americans who are 25 or older have a college degree. This proportion is 60 percent more than whites, and more than twice that of blacks. The high share of college graduates highlights why aggregate data for Asian-Americans is more likely to hide the challenges of some in the community. While a large proportion is highly-skilled, those with fewer skills face significant challenges that are too easily overlooked when focusing on the larger group. Later in the report we detail some of the challenges of education and wages for specific groups within Asian-Americans.

Table 1. Unemployment, employment, and earnings characteristics by race and Hispanic ethnicity, 2010 annual averages

Characteristics of the employed

Asians

Whites

Blacks

Hispanics

% Employed (employment -population ratio among those 16 and older)

59.9

59.4

52.3

59.0

% Usually working part time

16.2

20.1

17.5

19.1

% Women (age 16 and over)

46.5

46.3

54.3

40.7

% College graduates (age 25 and over)

57.5

36.1

26.0

16.9

% Working in the private sector (wage and salary workers)

82.0

77.8

76.3

82.6

% Working in the public sector

11.5

14.6

19.8

11.0

% Self-employed (unincorporated)

6.3

7.4

3.8

6.3

Weekly earnings

Total

$855

$765

$611

$535

Men

$936

$850

$633

$560

Women

$773

$684

$592

$508

Characteristics of the unemployed

Unemployment rate

7.5

8.7

16.0

12.5

% Women (age 16 and over)

43.8

40.7

45.7

39.8

Median duration of unemployment in weeks

25.9

20.3

25.9

18.8

% Long-term unemployed (27 weeks or more)

48.3

41.9

48.4

39.3

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey
Note: Asians refers to those who self-identify their race only as “Asian” in the Current Population Survey and does not include those that identify as Hawaiian and Pacific Islander. Persons whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race. Those identified as White, Black or Asian includes those Hispanics who selected White, Black or Asian when queried about their race.

 

http://www.dol.gov/_sec/media/reports/asianlaborforce/

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