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Employment declined sharply during COVID-19 pandemic for self-employed Asians

May 28, 2021

Employment fell more sharply for Asians during the COVID-19 pandemic than for other population groups. Comparing average employment levels for the 12 months before the pandemic to the average for the 12 months following the onset of the pandemic (the year ending February 2021), Asian employment declined by 8.2 percent. This was larger than the 7.3-percent decline for the overall population.

Percent decline in employment by class of worker, first 12 months of COVID-19 pandemic compared with 12 months before pandemic
Class of worker Asian Total

Total employment

-8.2% -7.3%

Private wage and salary

-8.9 -8.8


-5.8 -2.2


-4.1 -2.7

Among the self-employed, Asians saw a decline of 5.8 percent in the 12 months after the pandemic, greater than the decline of 2.2 percent for the total population. The steeper decline among Asians likely reflects the fact that self-employed Asians disproportionately work in the other services industry. That industry includes nail salons, drycleaning and laundry services, and electronic and precision equipment repair. The other services industry lost a large share of its employment in the early months of the pandemic, when mandatory business closures, stay-at-home orders, and fear of the illness kept many people from engaging in both labor market and consumer activity.

In the year after the onset of the pandemic, the decline in employment for government workers—a category that includes public school teachers, state university employees, workers at public hospitals, and police officers—was also somewhat steeper for Asians than for the population overall (−4.1 percent, compared with −2.7 percent).

Employment for Asians and the population overall declined by a similar proportion among private wage and salary workers in the year after the onset of the pandemic. These are workers who received wages, salaries, commissions, tips, or payment in kind from a private-sector employer.

These data are from the Current Population Survey. To learn more, see our labor force data on race and ethnicity. Also see our blog post, “Employment Trends of Asians and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders.”


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Employment declined sharply during COVID-19 pandemic for self-employed Asians at (visited July 12, 2024).

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