For the first time in U.S. history, people of color, in particular women of color, are the majority of prime working-age hires. “Prime working-age” is between 25 and 54 years old, according to the Washington Post’s analysis of Labor Department data. The department began collecting the data in the 1970s.
People of color hires overtook white hires in 2018, the data shows.
Women of color are driving the trend as even women who are students or mothers are deciding to reenter the workforce. It started in 2015, when women of color began moving more and more into employment. It coincided with a large bulk of white baby boomers retiring.
There are 5.2 million more people in the United States with jobs than at the end of 2016, and 4.5 million of them are people of color, according to The Post’s analysis of Labor Department data.
The boom of hiring people of color is explained by a tight labor market, economists say, because it is forcing employers to look beyond a typical pool of candidates. But interviews conducted by the Post of managers and caseworkers, say that changes in cultural attitudes and educational attainment, are increasing the supply of nonwhite women in the work world.
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“Culturally, our role was to stay home and take care of the children,” Frances Villagran-Glover, vice president of student services at Northern Virginia Community College, where Hispanic enrollment has doubled in the past decade, told The Post. “But that mind-set is changing. And as women go into the workforce, they see opportunities for leadership and growth.”
However, as the economy shows signs of slowing, it could be people of color who are hit the hardest when hiring slows to a trickle.
“We’ve seen a lot of gains in employment among lower-income and lower-education groups,” Marianne Wanamaker, an economist and former member of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, told the Post. “But it is precisely those groups that are vulnerable to layoffs if economic activity slows.”
A typical white family has a net worth of over $170,000, while a typical African American or Latino family has a net worth under $21,000, Federal data shows, so it’s more important than ever for people of color to have the same opportunities for jobs and financial security while the economy is strong.