Employment data adjusted

Updated: 2015-02-09 06:17

By NIU YUE in New York(China Daily USA)

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The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has started announcing monthly seasonally adjusted employment data on Asian Americans, a move that may better facilitate Asian American employment.

After seasonal adjustments, the unemployment rate for Asian Americans in January is 4.0 percent, lower than that of whites, 4.9 percent; blacks 10.3 percent and Hispanics 6.9 percent.

The BLS issued the data after members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) raised the importance of collecting and publishing it during a meeting with Labor Secretary Tom Perez last spring. CAPAC Chair Congresswoman Judy Chu and CAPAC Economic Development Task Force Chair Congresswoman Grace Meng were the main advocates.

The BLS introduced monthly seasonal adjustment in 2004, but employment rate of Asian Americans were not seasonally adjusted in past years due to a number of factors, including small sample size and lack of historical data. In a joint letter to Perez last April, Chu and Meng asked the sample size of AAPIs surveyed to be enlarged.

The seasonable adjustment excludes seasonable factors from employment rate and shows "employment trends that are not impacted by things that happen on a seasonable basis. For example, during Christmas, there will be more employment because there is more demand in retail," said Howard Shih, the research and policy director at Asian American Federation."

The rebound in employment at times such as Christmas doesn’t necessarily mean better employment situation because it is "supposed to happen during the year," said Shih. Adjusted data "will open up a whole new trove of information for policymakers who rely on current, accurate data," said Meng in a statement.

The move comes months after the BLS started to detail Asian Americans in its annual Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity last August. The data contained six Asian ethnics and showed disparity in employment among different Asian American ethnic groups. It was also requested by Chu and Meng in the joint letter.

The unemployment rate of Japanese Americans was only 3.3 percent in 2013, Chinese Americans 4.4 percent, while Filipino was 5.8.

More detailed disaggregation among Asian Americans has been impossible because the sample is too small, said Abraham Mosisa, economist with the BLS. He also told China Daily that annual average is more reliable in serious analysis and research than monthly data.

And it also highlights the pressing need for disaggregated data of the most diverse ethnic group in the US that speaks dozens of different languages. Given the huge differences among different Asian American ethnics, "the [overall] data masks the difficult employment situations of many Asian Americans," said Shih.

"The challenge with data on the Asian American population continues to be how to accurately capture the economic status of individual ethnic groups," said Dan Crawford, communications director of Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

For institutes like AAF and EPI, they have been relying on American Community Survey (ACS), an ongoing survey by the Census Bureau to provide yearly information to communities on various aspects.

In a report published in Sep last year and using 2013 ACS data, EPI estimates that the poverty rate among Asian American ethnic groups range from 7.7 percent (Indian) to 25.6% (Hmong). It shows "how much income & poverty rates can differ across different Asian ethnic populations, but disaggregated data is still extremely limited," said Crawford.

Lu Huiquan in New York contributed to this story.