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Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey

Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, 2008


Overall labor market conditions deteriorated markedly in 2008 following the onset of the recession in December 2007. Although individuals in all race and ethnicity groups experienced labor market difficulties, labor market problems for blacks or African Americans and Hispanics or Latinos were especially acute in 2008. For example, in 2008, the unemployment rate was 10.1 percent for blacks and 7.6 percent for Hispanics. These figures were considerably higher than the unemployment rates for whites and Asians, at 5.2 percent and 4.0 percent, respectively.

The labor market difficulties of blacks and Hispanics are associated with many factors, not all of which are measurable. Some of these factors are their lower average levels of schooling; their tendency to be employed in occupations with high levels of unemployment; their greater concentration in the central cities of urban areas, where job opportunities may be relatively limited; and the likelihood that they experience discrimination in the workplace. These and other factors may make it especially difficult for some black and Hispanic workers to find or keep jobs as the overall demand for labor contracts during economic downturns.

This report describes the labor force characteristics and earnings patterns among the major race and ethnicity groups and provides detailed data through a set of supporting tables. These data are obtained from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly survey of 60,000 households that is a rich source of information on the labor force. For definitions of terms and concepts used in this report, see the Technical Note. For additional information about the CPS, see the explanatory note for the household survey online at


Last Modified Date: December 4, 2009