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Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey

Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, 2008

Unemployment and not in the labor force

  • Among the major race and ethnicity groups, blacks had the highest unemployment rate in 2008, at 10.1 percent, compared with 7.6 percent for Hispanics, 5.2 percent for whites, and 4.0 percent for Asians. Historically, the jobless rate for blacks generally has been at least twice that for whites, whereas the unemployment rate for Hispanics has hovered between the rates for whites and blacks. From 2007 to 2008, unemployment rates increased for all the major race and ethnicity groups. (See tables 1 and 10.)
  • Higher unemployment rates for blacks and Hispanics occur across all major age and sex groups. In 2008, the rates for black adult men and women (age 20 and older) were 10.2 and 8.1 percent, respectively, compared with 6.8 and 6.9 percent for Hispanic adult men and women, respectively. The unemployment rates were 4.9 percent for white adult men and 4.4 percent for white adult women. The jobless rates for Asian adult men and women were 3.9 and 3.5 percent, respectively. (See table 1.)
  • Teenagers (ages 16 to 19) are especially vulnerable to joblessness. In 2008, black teenagers had the highest unemployment rate among the major race and ethnicity groups at 31.2 percent, compared with 22.4 percent for Hispanics, 16.8 percent for whites, and 14.6 percent for Asians.
  • Unemployed blacks have been jobless for longer periods than unemployed workers in other groups. In 2008, the median duration of unemployment for blacks was 12.1 weeks, compared with 10.2 weeks for Asians, 8.8 weeks for whites, and 8.4 weeks for Hispanics. (See table 11.)
  • In 2008, more than half (53.7 percent) of unemployed workers (8.9 million) were job losers. Reentrants to the labor force (27.7 percent), job leavers (10.0 percent), and new entrants (8.6 percent) constituted the balance of unemployed persons. Over the year, the number of job losers who did not expect to be recalled to work (that is, not on temporary layoff) accounted for about four-fifths of the increase in unemployed job losers.Between 2007 and 2008, the number of persons who were on temporary layoff increased among all the major race and ethnicity groups. (See table 12.)
  • Black men are more likely than other men to be out of the labor force. Among men age 25 to 54, the proportion of blacks who did not participate in the labor force in 2008 was higher than that of whites, Asians, and Hispanics. Among women of the same age, the percentage of Hispanics not in the labor force was higher than that of whites, blacks, and Asians. (See table 13.)
  • In 2008, blacks made up 11 percent of the civilian labor force, but 24 percent of persons marginally attached to the labor force. Persons marginally attached to the labor force are individuals who were not in the labor force, who wanted and were available for work, and who had looked for a job sometime in the previous 12 months—but not in the 4 weeks preceding the CPS. Hispanics and Asians were represented about proportionately among the marginally attached. Blacks also comprised a high proportion of discouraged workers (28 percent) in 2008. Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached, are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them.


Last Modified Date: December 4, 2009