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.
This information comes from a recent report by the Pew Research Center analyzing labor market rends in the economic recovery from 2009 to 2011. The Pew study focuses in particular on the change in employment by race, ethnicity, gender and nativity.
The disparate trends in the jobs recovery from 2009 to 2011 reflect the changing demographics of the American workforce. Although job 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 has barely risen since the end of the recession, according to Pew’s analysis of government data.
Pew notes that 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. 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 percent.
For Hispanics, the recovery has raised employment from 19.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 20.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, an increase of 6.5 percent. For Asians, employment increased from 6.7 million to 7.2 million, or by 6.8 percent. Gains are smaller for whites, from 95.4 million to 96.4 million (1.1 percent), and Blacks, from 14.3 million to 14.6 million (2.2 percent).
Foreign-born workers are also experiencing a faster rate of growth in employment than native-born workers, according to Pew. In the recovery, from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2011, employment among the native born increased 1.8 percent (2 million) and employment among the foreign born increased 5.2 percent (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.
Women, who fared better than men in the recession, have not done as well in the recovery. Men realized a gain of 2.6 million jobs from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2011, compared with only 0.6 million for women. Nonetheless, compared with before the start of the recession in 2007, employment levels for men are down by more, a loss of 3.4 percent for men versus 2.9 percent for women. Thus, men still face a steeper climb back.