Who Works?

In 2008, employment among the major race and ethnicity groups, with the exception of Asians, was lower than a year earlier.

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The employment-population ratios (the proportion of the population that is employed):

Blacks: 57.3 percent. This pattern of a relatively low employment-population ratio for blacks has persisted for decades.

Asians: 64.3 percent.

Hispanics: 63.3 percent

Whites: 62.8 percent

Who Works by Gender

Adult black men (age 20 and older) had the lowest employment-population ratio at 63.9 percent, continuing a long-term pattern. Hispanics were the highest at 78.6 percent.

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Adult black women had the second highest employment-population ratio at 59.1 percent. Asians the highest ratio, 59.3 percent.

The Boss and the Workers

In 2008, 50 percent of Asian men worked in management or professional jobs, compared with 34 percent of white men, 23 percent of black men and 15 percent of Hispanic men.

About 4 in 10 black men were employed in service jobs and sales and office jobs. Black men also were more likely than other men to work in production, transportation and material moving occupations.

Forty-six percent of Asian women worked in management or professional jobs, compared with about 41 percent of white women, 31 percent of black women and 24 percent of Hispanic women.

In contrast, 64 percent of Hispanic women worked in service jobs and in sales and office jobs, compared with about 60 percent of black women, 53 percent of white women and 46 percent of Asian women.

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Blacks made up 11 percent of all employed workers in 2008, but they accounted for about one-quarter or more of those in several specific occupations, including nursing aides (35 percent), security guards and bus drivers (about 30 percent each) and social workers (25 percent).

What We Earn

The annual median income of black households in 2008 was $34,218, a decline of 2.8 percent (in 2008 constant dollars) from 2007.

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Although blacks and Hispanics have attained higher levels of education and have moved into higher-paying occupations, they still have considerably lower earnings than that of Asians or whites.

In 2008, the median usual weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers were $589 for blacks and $529 for Hispanics, compared with $861 for Asians and $742 for whites.

Earnings of black men ($620) and Hispanic men ($559) were 75 and 68 percent, respectively, of the earnings of white men ($825).

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Earnings of black women ($554) were 85 percent of the earnings of white women ($654), a higher ratio than among black and white men.

For men, the earnings disparity between black or Hispanic workers and Asian or white workers holds steady across all major occupational groups. For example, in 2008, median usual weekly earnings of Asian men ($1,403) and white men ($1,255) working full-time in management, professional and related occupations were well-above the earnings of Hispanic men ($1,002) and black men ($892) in the same occupations.

Among women, the earnings gap is generally smaller than that for men, and, in some major occupational categories, earnings levels are fairly close. In management, professional and related occupations, for example, the earnings of black women ($763) and Hispanic women ($775) were around 85 percent of those of white women ($900). In most occupational categories, Asian women had the highest earnings.

What We Own (PDF)

The revenues for 1.2 million black-owned businesses in 2002 was $88.6 billion. Black-owned firms accounted for 5 percent of all non-farm businesses in the United States.

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There were 129,329 black-owned firms in New York state in 2002, which led all states. New York City alone had 98,080 such firms, which led all cities.

There were 10,716 black-owned firms operating in 2002 with receipts of $1 million or more.

There were 969 black-owned firms with 100 or more employees in 2002.

Home Owners

46 percent.

The percentage of black households living in owner-occupied homes.

The Unemployed

Blacks had the highest unemployment rate in 2008 at 10.1 percent, compared with 7.6 percent for Hispanics, 5.2 percent for whites and 4.0 percent for Asians.

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In 2008, the rates for black adult men and women (age 20 and older) were 10.2 and 8.1 percent, respectively. Unemployed blacks have been jobless for longer periods than unemployed workers in other groups. In 2008, the median duration of unemployment for blacks was 12.1 weeks.

The Poor

Nearly a quarter of black people are poor, the largest percentage for any racial group.

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One in five black families is poor, largely because so many black families are headed by single women.

The poverty threshold for a family of four in 2008 was $22,025; for an individual, $10,991.