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Tag Archives: Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders

Employment Trends of Asians and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, so let’s take a closer look at national employment statistics for Asians and for Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders. We’ll focus on how labor market conditions for these groups continue to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

BLS has been collecting data in the Current Population Survey on the labor market characteristics of people who identify their race as Asian or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander since 2003. Looking at historical data, the employment–population ratio—the percentage of the population that is employed—is generally higher for Asians and for Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders than the U.S. average. The ratio in 2019 was 62.3 percent for Asians and 66.2 percent for Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders, well above the national average of 60.8 percent. The ratios for all groups declined sharply in 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Employment–population ratios had not yet fully recovered in 2021, but the ratios for Asians and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders continued to be higher than the U.S. average. The greater likelihood of employment among Asians and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders reflects the fact that larger shares of both groups are ages 25 to 54 than the overall population. People in this age range are more likely to be employed than people in younger and older age groups.

Employment–population ratios of the total population, Asians, and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders, 2003–21 annual averages

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

The following chart shows how the labor market improved in 2021 compared to 2020 but remained below its 2019 pre-pandemic level. The employment–population ratio increased by 1.6 percentage points from 2020 to 2021 but remained 2.4 percentage points below its 2019 level. Similarly, this ratio increased by 3.3 percentage points for Asians and 1.4 percentage points for Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders in 2021. The ratio for Asians in 2021 was still 1.7 percentage points lower than in 2019, while the ratio for Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders was still 4.0 percentage points lower.

Employment–population ratios of the total population, Asians, and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders, 2019–21 annual averages

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

The increase in the employment–population ratio between 2020 and 2021 varied for different groups within the Asian population. For example, this measure rose by 3.7 percentage points for Asian women and 2.9 percentage points for Asian men in 2021. The rise in the employment–population ratio was about twice as large for workers ages 16 to 24 (4.0 percentage points) and 25 to 54 (4.1 percentage points) than those age 55 and older (2.0 percentage points). Similarly, the increase in the percentage of foreign-born Asians (3.9 percentage points) who were employed was more than twice the increase for native-born Asians (1.8 percentage points). (Unfortunately, we can’t make these same comparisons for Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders because of their small sample size in the survey.)

Percentage point change in employment–population ratios for Asian groups, 2020 to 2021

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Asian Americans trace their roots to many different distinct and culturally diverse peoples. We collect information on seven different Asian groups—Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Other Asian. As shown in the chart below, Asian Indians and Chinese are the largest groups of Asian Americans. Japanese, at 5 percent, represent the smallest share.

Percent distribution of the Asian population age 16 and older by detailed groups, 2021

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Although the employment–population ratios for many of these groups increased in 2021, most remained below their 2019 pre-pandemic levels. After having the largest decline in their employment–population ratio from 2019 to 2020 (-9.2 percentage points), Vietnamese had the largest over-the-year gain in 2021 (7.1 percentage points) but remained 2.1 percentage points below the 2019 level. The employment–population ratio for Koreans in 2021, 5.9 percentage points below the 2019 level, had the largest decline over this 2-year period. The employment–population ratio of Asian Indians, however, had returned to the 2019 level in 2021.

Employment–population ratios of detailed Asian groups, 2019–21

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

This is just a sample of the information available on the labor force status of Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders. Explore some of our other resources to expand your knowledge.

Employment–population ratios, 2003–21 annual averages
YearTotal populationAsianNative Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

2003

62.3%62.4%63.6%

2004

62.363.067.4

2005

62.763.470.2

2006

63.164.270.6

2007

63.064.369.4

2008

62.264.367.8

2009

59.361.261.8

2010

58.559.960.1

2011

58.460.062.2

2012

58.660.163.0

2013

58.661.262.9

2014

59.060.463.5

2015

59.360.462.8

2016

59.760.965.7

2017

60.161.562.9

2018

60.461.664.9

2019

60.862.366.2

2020

56.857.360.8

2021

58.460.662.2
Employment–population ratios, 2019–21 annual averages
YearTotal populationAsianNative Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

2019

60.8%62.3%66.2%

2020

56.857.360.8

2021

58.460.662.2
Percentage point change in employment–population ratios for Asian groups, 2020 to 2021
CharacteristicChange from 2020 to 202120202021

Total

3.357.360.6

Men

2.965.468.3

Women

3.750.253.9

Age

Ages 16 to 24

4.033.437.4

Ages 25 to 54

4.173.577.6

Age 55 and older

2.037.339.3

Country of birth

Foreign born

3.957.060.9

Native born

1.857.559.3
Percent distribution of the Asian population age 16 and older by detailed groups, 2021
Asian groupPercent distribution

Asian Indian

22.9%

Chinese

22.1

Other Asian

17.7

Filipino

14.9

Vietnamese

10.1

Korean

7.2

Japanese

5.0
Employment–population ratios of detailed Asian groups, 2019–21
Year201920202021

Asian Indian

66.6%63.2%66.6%

Filipino

63.955.860.6

Vietnamese

61.252.059.1

Other Asian

61.156.559.7

Chinese

60.456.659.7

Korean

60.355.654.4

Japanese

56.153.853.1

Employment Trends of Asians and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders

May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, so let’s take a closer look at national employment statistics for Asians and for Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders (NHPIs). We’ll focus on how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the labor market for these groups.

BLS has been collecting data in its household survey since 2003 on the labor market characteristics of people who identify their race as Asian or NHPI. Looking at historical data, we’ve noticed that the employment–population ratio—the percentage of the population that is employed—is generally higher for Asians and NHPIs than for the U.S. average. The ratio in 2019 was 62.3 percent for Asians and 66.2 percent for NHPIs, well above the national average of 60.8 percent. The greater likelihood of employment among Asians and NHPIs reflects the fact that both groups—particularly NHPIs—are more likely to be ages 25 to 54 than the overall population. People in this age range are more likely to be employed than those in younger and older age groups. Regardless of age, employment declined sharply for Asians and NHPIs in 2020, reflecting the impact of the pandemic.

Employment–population ratio, 2003–20

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

To get a better sense of how Asians and NHPIs fared in the labor market during the pandemic, we compared employment–population ratios for the 12 months before the pandemic with estimates for the 12 months after it started. The following chart shows the decline in the average employment–population ratio for the 12 months ending in February 2021 compared with the 12 months ending in February 2020. The employment–population ratio for NHPIs fell 6.0 percentage points, and the ratio for Asians fell 5.4 percentage points. These compare with a decline of 4.7 percentage points for the overall population.

Percentage point decline in employment–population ratios, first 12 months of COVID-19 pandemic compared with 12 months before pandemic

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

We used the same approach to look at different groups within the Asian population. The employment–population ratio for Asian women declined by 5.7 percentage points from the 12 months before the pandemic to the 12 months following the onset of the pandemic. This was more than the 5.2 percentage point decline for Asian men. Asians age 55 and older had a greater drop in their employment–population ratio (−6.1 percentage points) than did Asians in younger age groups: −5.2 percentage points for Asians ages 25 to 54 and −4.7 percentage points for Asians ages 16 to 24. The decline in the percentage of foreign-born Asians who were employed—6.1 percentage points—was greater than that for native-born Asians (−4.2 percentage points). (Unfortunately, we can’t make these same comparisons for NHPIs because of their small sample size in the survey.)

Percentage point decline in employment–population ratios for Asians, first 12 months of COVID-19 pandemic compared with 12 months before pandemic

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Asians trace their roots to many different distinct and culturally diverse peoples. Our household survey collects information on seven different Asian groups—Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Other Asian. Of these groups, the percentage point decline in the employment–population ratio for the 12 months after the onset of the pandemic was largest for the Vietnamese (−8.8 percentage points). This likely reflects the large number of Vietnamese workers employed in the other services industry. This industry—particularly the nail salon component, in which Vietnamese workers are especially prevalent—lost much 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. By contrast, employment–population ratios for Asian Indians and for Japanese dropped by 3.4 percentage points and 3.0 percentage points, respectively; these two Asian groups are more likely to be employed in industries that lost smaller proportions of employment, such as professional and business services. Notably, workers in this industry were more likely to telework due to the pandemic than workers employed in other services.

Percentage point decline in employment–population ratios for Asian groups, first 12 months of COVID-19 pandemic compared with 12 months before pandemic

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

If you want to learn more about how Asians and NHPIs are faring in the labor market, please check out our data on race and ethnicity.

Employment–population ratio, 2003–20
YearTotalAsiansNative Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders

2003

62.3%62.4%63.6%

2004

62.363.067.4

2005

62.763.470.2

2006

63.164.270.6

2007

63.064.369.4

2008

62.264.367.8

2009

59.361.261.8

2010

58.559.960.1

2011

58.460.062.2

2012

58.660.163.0

2013

58.661.262.9

2014

59.060.463.5

2015

59.360.462.8

2016

59.760.965.7

2017

60.161.562.9

2018

60.461.664.9

2019

60.862.366.2

2020

56.857.360.8
Percentage point decline in employment–population ratios, first 12 months of COVID-19 pandemic compared with 12 months before pandemic
GroupPercentage point change

Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders

-6.0

Asian

-5.4

Total

-4.7
Percentage point decline in employment–population ratios for Asians, first 12 months of COVID-19 pandemic compared with 12 months before pandemic
GroupPercentage point change

Total

-5.4

Men

-5.2

Women

-5.7

Age

Ages 16 to 24

-4.7

Ages 25 to 54

-5.2

Age 55 and older

-6.1

Country of birth

Foreign born

-6.1

Native born

-4.2
Percentage point decline in employment–population ratios for Asian groups, first 12 months of COVID-19 pandemic compared with 12 months before pandemic
GroupPercentage point change

Vietnamese

-8.8

Filipino

-7.6

Korean

-6.7

Other Asian

-5.6

Chinese

-4.9

Asian Indian

-3.4

Japanese

-3.0

Total

-5.4