Data Shows Asian Americans Suffered the Most from Long-Term Unemployment in 2011
Asian Americans have continued to have the highest share of unemployed workers who were unemployed long term when compared with white, black and Hispanic workers – despite the fact that they have higher education levels than these other racial/ethnic groups.
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released an issue brief titled Unfairly disadvantaged? Asian Americans and unemployment during and after the Great Recession (2007–10), by Marlene Kim in April 2012. The EPI has since released a supplement brief with data through 2011 which has found that the major patterns documented in the previous issue continue to hold true.
The year 2011 marked the second year in which Asian Americans had the largest share of unemployed workers who were unemployed long term, for six months or more. In 2011, 50.1 percent of the Asian American unemployed were unemployed long term, up from 48.7 percent in 2010 (Figure A).
According to the brief by Marlene Kim in 2012, the Asian American labor force is the most highly educated labor force in terms of race, yet their long-term unemployment share remains very high. Thus, the lack of jobs, not skills, underlies the country’s persistently high unemployment rate.
The Asian American unemployment rate has continued to closely track the white rate, as it did from 2007 to 2010 (Figure B). The Asian American rate was however consistently lower than the white rate from 2007 through 2008, while it sometimes equaled and even exceeded the white rate during some quarters in 2009, 2010, and 2011.
In 2011, highly educated Asian Americans continued to have a higher unemployment rate than similarly educated whites, despite the fact that the majority of the Asian American labor force has at least a college degree (57.2 percent of the age 25-and-over population, as of 2010), compared with less than two-fifths (38.6 percent) of the white labor force, according to Kim’s brief.
Asian Americans with a college degree had an unemployment rate of 6.4 percent in 2011, while whites with the same degree had an unemployment rate of 4.3 percent (Table 1). This disparity also existed among Asian Americans with some college but less than a college degree.
As explained in Kim’s issue brief, such patterns in unemployment rates and long-term unemployment shares are likely in part due to nativity and racial bias. Further, high long-term unemployment shares are the result of geography with about one-third of the Asian American labor force residing in California – a state with high long-term unemployment rates.