Jobs growth for non-Hispanics has been relatively slow in the economic recovery. After losing 7.4 million jobs in the recession from 2007 to 2009, non-Hispanics gained only 3.6 million jobs during the recovery from 2009 to 2013. Thus, employment for non-Hispanics in the fourth quarter of 2013—121.8 million—was nearly 4 million less than the 125.6 million it had been in the fourth quarter of 2007.
The slow growth in jobs for non-Hispanics mirrors the slow growth in their working-age population. From 2009 to 2013, non-Hispanic employment increased by 3% and the working-age population increased by 2.5%. Thus, the employment rate for non-Hispanics is essentially unchanged, moving from 58.1% in 2009 to 58.4% in 2013. The unemployment rate, however, has fallen from 9% to 6.3% in the past four years. But both rates are yet to return to the levels that prevailed before the onset of the recession.
Generally, the gap in the rates at which Hispanics and non-Hispanics are gaining jobs is the result of long-run demographic trends. The Hispanic share of the U.S. working-age population increased from 13.6% in the fourth quarter of 2007 to 15.4% in the fourth quarter of 2013. In line with that, the Hispanic share of employment over that period increased from 13.9% to 15.7%.13
Non-Hispanic Immigrants Continue to Expand their Role in the U.S. Labor Market
The population of non-Hispanic immigrants continued to grow rapidly through the recession and the recovery. Since the influx of non-Hispanic immigrants is less driven by unauthorized immigrant flows and not as dependent as Hispanics on the construction sector, it has served to expand the role of non-Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. labor market.
The non-Hispanic immigrant working-age population increased by 14.7% from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2013, rising from 18.2 million to 20.9 million. But the U.S.-born working-age population of non-Hispanics increased by only 2.9% over this six-year period, from 182.5 million in 2007 to 187.8 million in 2013 (see Appendix B).
The more rapid increase in the supply of immigrant workers among non-Hispanics translated into more rapid employment growth. Employment among non-Hispanic immigrants rose from 10.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 12.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2013, an increase of 1.6 million. That was more than enough to make up for the loss of 555,000 jobs in the recession.
Among U.S.-born non-Hispanics, employment rose from 107.3 million at the end of 2009 to 109.3 million at the end of 2013. That amounted to a gain of only 2 million jobs in the recovery, substantially less than the 6.8 million jobs lost by them in the recession.
The different rates at which the non-Hispanic U.S.-born and immigrant populations and employment levels are growing mean that the immigrant shares are increasing. The share of immigrants in the non-Hispanic working-age population rose from 9.1% in 2007 to 10% in 2013. In tandem, the immigrant share in non-Hispanic employment increased from 9.1% in 2007 to 10.3% in 2013.
There is little difference in how the employment and unemployment rates have trended for foreign-born and U.S.-born non-Hispanics since the recession started. The employment rate for the U.S. born fell from 62.5% in 2007 to 58.2% in 2013. Among immigrant non-Hispanics, the employment rate dropped from 63.1% in late 2007 to 60.1% in late 2013.
The unemployment rates for U.S.-born and foreign-born non-Hispanics are higher than their pre-recession levels by similar margins. For the U.S. born, the unemployment rate increased from 4.5% to 9.1% in the recession and came down to 6.4% by the end of 2013. For immigrants, the unemployment rate more than doubled in the recession, rising from 3.9% to 8.5%. It has since fallen to 5.9%.
A Slow Recovery for Whites, Blacks and Asians
Labor market outcomes for white, black and Asian workers have generally improved only modestly during the economic recovery. Employment growth for each group has hewn to the rate at which the working-age population for each group is growing. All workers—whites, blacks and Asians—are still looking to recover fully from the setbacks delivered by the recession.
The number of Asians with jobs in the fourth quarter of 2013—8.5 million—exceeded the 7.4 million employed at the start of the recession in the fourth quarter of 2007. But, like Hispanics, Asians are a rapidly growing segment of the U.S. population, and the share of the Asian workforce with a job is still depressed. More specifically, the employment rate for Asians fell from 64.1% in 2007 to 59.7% in 2009 and leveled off thereafter, standing at 60.9% in 2013.
For whites, the number employed in 2013—95.4 million—is still 4.5 million less than the number employed in 2007. Whites lost 6.2 million jobs from 2007 to 2009 and have restored only 1.7 million jobs through the fourth quarter of 2013. Among blacks, the number employed in 2013—15.3 million—is about the same as the 15.5 million employed in 2007.
Employment growth for whites and blacks in the recovery appears to lag behind the growth observed for Hispanics and Asians. However, the white and black populations are increasing more slowly, and the shares that are employed have trended like they did for Hispanics and Asians, falling sharply in the recession and then recovering modestly. From 2007 to 2013, through the recession and the recovery, the employment rate for whites fell from 63.4% to 59.3%, and for blacks it fell from 57.7% to 53.2%, a loss of about four percentage points for each. The decrease in the employment rate was similar for Hispanics and Asians, four and three percentage points respectively.
The unemployment rates for whites, blacks and Asians are currently less than at the end of the recession but still far from sinking to the pre-recession rates. During the recession from 2007 to 2009, the unemployment rate for whites increased from 3.7% to 8%; for blacks, it increased from 8.6% to 15.6%; and for Asians, it rose from 3.7% to 7.8%. At the end of 2013, the unemployment rates for whites, blacks and Asians were 5.2%, 12.1% and 5.2%, respectively. For each group, the unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2013 is 41% higher than the rate in the fourth quarter of 2007.