Employment for U.S. Hispanics Tops Pre-Recession Peak, Pew Says

Employment among Hispanics and Asians in the U.S. has climbed back to levels seen prior to the last recession, while hiring of whites and blacks has lagged behind, a study found.

The number of Hispanic workers reached 20.7 million in the last three months of 2011, up from 19.9 million in the final quarter of 2007 when the economic slump began, according to a report by the Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center, a non-partisan research group. Employment among Asians climbed by about 263,000 during the period, while it was 4.9 million lower for whites and 763,000 for blacks.

While all categories have shown gains since the recovery began in 2009, the speed of the improvement has tracked the rate of growth in each group’s working-age population, leaving the share of those employed little changed. The economic rebound has also been less kind to women than men, even as the opposite was the case during the contraction, the report showed.

“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,” according to the paper, written by Rakesh Kochhar, the group’s associate director of research. “The gains, however, have varied across demographic groups.”

Using the employment rate, or the share of the working-age population with the job, as a gauge, reveals a different story. The rate for Hispanics and blacks was at least 5 percentage points lower at the end of 2011 than when the recession began. The deficit was about 4 percentage points for whites and Asians.

Persistent Slack

“The slack created by the recession is still largely present in the labor market,” the report said. “The share of people with jobs is much less than it could be, based on pre-recession outcomes.”

Women were the only group considered that showed a bigger gain in population during the recovery than in employment, according to the report titled “The Demographics of the Jobs Recovery.”

Over the past two years, men gained 2.55 million jobs compared to a 604,000 increase for women. The female population grew even faster, pushing their employment rate down to 53.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 from 53.8 percent in the same period in 2009, the only group to show a decline.

Hiring cutbacks among government agencies may be one reason women haven’t fared well during the recovery, the report said, although the results are “unclear.”

Jobs in hospitality, including restaurants and hotels, were the leading source of gains for Hispanics during the recovery, followed by wholesalers and retailers, according to the report.

Pew’s findings were based on analysis of figures that were not adjusted for seasonal variations from the Labor Department’s monthly survey of about 55,000 households. The tabulations were made using quarterly data in order to boost the sample size, the report said.

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