Since the start of this administration, we’ve made big strides in getting our economy back on track. We’ve gone from losing more than 750,000 jobs a month when President Obama was inaugurated to creating 2.2 million in the last 16 months. We still face challenges ahead. As we continue to make gains, it’s important to remember that all Americans must be included in the nation’s success.
Over the last several months, the Department of Labor has released a series of reports looking at the workforce picture for different populations. This month, we released the latest in this series, entitled The Asian-American Labor Force in the Recovery.
When I served in Congress, one in five of my constituents was an Asian American or Pacific Islander. I know that while many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are thriving and living the American Dream, other Asian communities are still struggling to share in that success.
As the report highlights, Asian Americans are a diverse and growing share of the U.S. labor force. As a group, the Asian American community has often experienced better labor market outcomes than other races and ethnicities. Asians in the labor force are substantially more likely to have college degrees than whites, blacks or Hispanics. They had lower unemployment rates and higher median weekly earnings in 2010 ($855) than workers of other races and ethnicities.
However, beneath these numbers is a wide range of outcomes experienced by different segments of the Asian community. Employment numbers broken down by gender, age and country of origin illustrate significant disparities within the AAPI community.
For example, in 2010, the average unemployment rate for Asian Americans was 7.5 percent, lower than all other major races or ethnic groups. But a closer look at the numbers shows, for instance, that while Japanese workers had an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent, this was about half of the 8.5 percent unemployment rate experienced by Filipino workers.
Similarly, while 65 percent of Asian Indians were employed in 2010, only 55 percent of Koreans had jobs. There are even larger disparities in educational attainment. About three quarters of employed Asian Indians have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to only 30 percent of employed Vietnamese workers. Also, the report finds that when Asian Americans do lose their jobs, they stay unemployed for longer periods than whites or Latinos.
The challenge we face is to ensure that the economic recovery reaches all communities. The report details a number of initiatives the Department of Labor is pursuing to ensure that AAPI workers are protected on the job and benefit from workforce development programs. We need to nurture the contributions of our AAPI workers, so we can win the global race to create new industries and new high-skilled jobs. If we are going to out-build, out-educate and out-innovate our global competitors, we cannot spare anyone’s talent. In this high-stakes competition to secure our economic future, America doesn’t have a person to lose.