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Today's Labor Force - The Working Poor

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In 2003 approximately 9.9 million people (6.4% of the total labor force population) lived below the official poverty level, according to data presented by the BLS in A Profile of the Working Poor, 2003 (March 2005). About 7.4 million people in the labor force were classified as "working poor," that is, individuals who spent at least twenty-seven weeks in the labor force but whose income still fell below the official poverty threshold ($18,400 for a family of four living in the contiguous United States, slightly higher in Alaska and Hawaii). The poverty rate TABLE 1.5 Employment status of the civilian population 25 years and over, by demographic characteristics, 2004–05among those working or looking for work for at least twenty-seven weeks during 2003 was 5.3%, and among those who were in the labor force fifty to fifty-two weeks it was 4.8%. Three-and-a-half percent of people who worked full-time, year-round were living in poverty in 2003; 10.6% of part-time workers who were in the labor force all year did not earn enough to meet the poverty threshold. (See Table 1.12.)
TABLE 1.5
Employment status of the civilian population 25 years and over, by demographic characteristics, 2004–05
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity Less than a high school diploma High school graduates, no collegea Some college or associate degree Bachelor's degree and higherb
Total Some college, no degree Associate degree
2004 2005 2004 2005 2004 2005 2004 2005 2004 2005 2004 2005
Total
Civilian noninstitutional population 27,669 27,871 59,860 60,408 47,556 48,269 31,713 31,763 15,843 16,506 51,852 52,860
    Civilian labor force 12,470 12,679 37,834 38,196 34,438 34,974 22,298 22,312 12,141 12,662 40,390 41,180
            Percent of population 45.1 45.5 63.2 63.2 72.4 72.5 70.3 70.2 76.6 76.7 77.9 77.9
        Employed 11,408 11,712 35,944 36,398 32,977 33,625 21,284 21,380 11,693 12,245 39,293 40,225
            Employment-population ratio 41.2 42.0 60.0 60.3 69.3 69.7 67.1 67.3 73.8 74.2 75.8 76.1
        Unemployed 1,062 967 1,890 1,798 1,462 1,349 1,014 932 447 417 1,098 955
            Unemployment rate 8.5 7.6 5.0 4.7 4.2 3.9 4.5 4.2 3.7 3.3 2.7 2.3
Men
Civilian noninstitutional population 13,523 13,660 27,991 28,652 21,530 21,898 14,757 14,748 6,773 7,149 26,308 26,445
    Civilian labor force 7,878 8,000 20,585 21,100 17,054 17,368 11,401 11,434 5,653 5,933 21,789 21,921
            Percent of population 58.3 58.6 73.5 73.6 79.2 79.3 77.3 77.5 83.5 83.0 82.8 82.9
        Employed 7,276 7,487 19,535 20,127 16,322 16,731 10,896 10,993 5,426 5,739 21,192 21,427
           Employment-population ratio 53.8 54.8 69.8 70.2 75.8 76.4 73.8 74.5 80.1 80.3 80.6 81.0
        Unemployed 602 514 1,049 973 732 636 505 442 227 195 597 494
            Unemployment rate 7.6 6.4 5.1 4.6 4.3 3.7 4.4 3.9 4.0 3.3 2.7 2.3
Women
Civilian noninstitutional population 14,147 14,211 31,869 31,757 26,026 26,371 16,957 17,015 9,069 9,357 25,545 26,416
    Civilian labor force 4,591 4,679 17,250 17,096 17,384 17,607 10,896 10,878 6,488 6,729 18,601 19,259
            Percent of population 32.5 32.9 54.1 53.8 66.8 66.8 64.3 63.9 71.5 71.9 72.8 72.9
        Employed 4,132 4,226 16,409 16,271 16,654 16,894 10,387 10,388 6,267 6,506 18,101 18,798
          Employment-population ratio 29.2 29.7 51.5 51.2 64.0 64.1 61.3 61.1 69.1 69.5 70.9 71.2
        Unemployed 460 453 841 826 730 713 509 490 221 222 500 461
          Unemployment rate 10.0 9.7 4.9 4.8 4.2 4.0 4.7 4.5 3.4 3.3 2.7 2.4
White
Civilian noninstitutional population 21,935 22,072 49,581 49,899 39,306 39,936 26,039 26,108 13,267 13,829 43,405 43,978
    Civilian labor force 10,086 10,247 30,925 31,168 28,300 28,744 18,144 18,163 10,157 10,581 33,653 34,080
            Percent of population 46.0 46.4 62.4 62.5 72.0 72.0 69.7 69.6 76.6 76.5 77.5 77.5
        Employed 9,335 9,579 29,571 29,911 27,262 27,771 17,445 17,515 9,817 10,256 32,799 33,352
          Employment-population ratio 42.6 43.4 59.6 59.9 69.4 69.5 67.0 67.1 74.0 74.2 75.6 75.8
        Unemployed 752 669 1,354 1,257 1,038 973 698 648 340 324 854 729
          Unemployment rate 7.5 6.5 4.4 4.0 3.7 3.4 3.8 3.6 3.3 3.1 2.5 2.1
Black or African American
Civilian noninstitutional population 3,965 4,018 7,460 7,633 5,649 5,689 4,009 3,968 1,639 1,721 3,748 3,861
    Civilian labor force 1,568 1,600 5,044 5,182 4,232 4,303 2,964 2,946 1,268 1,357 3,106 3,167
            Percent of population 39.6 39.8 67.6 67.9 74.9 75.6 73.9 74.2 77.4 78.9 82.9 82.0
        Employed 1,326 1,369 4,606 4,742 3,911 4,008 2,717 2,720 1,195 1,288 2,973 3,057
          Employment-population ratio 33.4 34.1 61.7 62.1 69.2 70.4 67.8 68.6 72.9 74.8 79.3 79.2
        Unemployed 243 231 438 440 321 295 247 225 74 70 133 110
          Unemployment rate 15.5 14.4 8.7 8.5 7.6 6.9 8.3 7.7 5.8 5.1 4.3 3.5
Asian
Civilian noninstitutional population 1,031 1,029 1,630 1,660 1,387 1,402 829 856 558 546 3,989 4,267
    Civilian labor force 456 466 1,052 1,027 1,004 1,005 587 600 417 404 3,049 3,307
            Percent of population 44.2 45.3 64.5 61.8 72.4 71.6 70.8 70.1 74.7 74.0 76.4 77.5
        Employed 429 440 1,005 980 956 972 559 579 397 393 2,960 3,208
          Employment-population ratio 41.6 42.8 61.6 59.0 68.9 69.3 67.4 67.6 71.1 72.1 74.2 75.2
        Unemployed 27 26 47 47 48 32 28 22 20 11 89 99
            Unemployment rate 5.9 5.5 4.5 4.6 4.8 3.2 4.7 3.6 4.9 2.6 2.9 3.0

Gender, Race, and Age

Of the 140 million people aged sixteen and over who were in the labor force at least twenty-seven weeks during 2003, more women (3.9 million) than men (3.5 million) were poor. Because fewer women than men participated in the labor force in 2003 (64.7 million women as compared with 75.3 million men), there was an even greater discrepancy between the percentage of TABLE 1.5 Employment status of the civilian population 25 years and over, by demographic characteristics, 2004–05 (CONTINUED) "7. Employment Status of the Civilian Noninstitutional Population 25 Years and Over by Educational Attainment, Sex, Race, and Hispanic or Latino Ethnicity," in Employment and Earnings, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2006, http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat7.pdf (accessed January 9, 2006)working women living in poverty (6%) and the percentage of working men whose earnings fell below the poverty threshold (4.7%). (See Table 1.13.)

TABLE 1.5
Employment status of the civilian population 25 years and over, by demographic characteristics, 2004–05 (CONTINUED)
[Numbers in thousands]
Employment status, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity Less than a high school diploma High school graduates, no collegea Some college or associate degree Bachelor's degree and higherb
Total Some college, no degree Associate degree
2004 2005 2004 2005 2004 2005 2004 2005 2004 2005 2004 2005
aIncludes persons with a high school diploma or equivalent.
bIncludes persons with a bachelor's, master's, professional, and doctoral degree.
Note: Estimates for the above race groups (white, black or African American, and Asian) do not sum to totals because data are not presented for all races. In addition, persons whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race and, therefore, are classified by ethnicity as well as by race.
SOURCE: "7. Employment Status of the Civilian Noninstitutional Population 25 Years and Over by Educational Attainment, Sex, Race, and Hispanic or Latino Ethnicity," in Employment and Earnings, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2006, http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat7.pdf (accessed January 9, 2006)
Hispanic or Latino ethnicity
Civilian noninstitutional population 8,914 9,325 6,172 6,389 4,064 4,269 2,847 2,963 1,217 1,306 2,686 2,813
    Civilian labor force 5,5553 5,721 4,566 4,750 3,222 3,365 2,251 2,326 971 1,039 2,204 2,298
            Percent of population 62.3 61.4 74.0 74.3 79.3 78.8 79.1 78.5 79.8 79.6 82.1 81.7
        Employed 5,135 5,367 4,330 4,535 3,068 3,228 2,137 2,230 931 997 2,127 2,232
            Employment-population ratio 57.6 57.6 70.2 71.0 75.5 75.6 75.1 75.3 76.5 76.4 79.2 79.4
        Unemployed 417 354 236 216 154 138 114 96 41 42 77 66
            Unemployment rate 7.5 6.2 5.2 4.5 4.8 4.1 5.0 4.1 4.2 4.0 3.5 2.9

Nearly three-fourths (71.7%) of the 7.4 million working poor in 2003 were white workers, yet African-American and Hispanic workers continued to experience poverty rates that were more than twice the rates of whites. The percentage of white working women (4.9%) in the labor force for more than half of the year and living in poverty was slightly higher than that of white men (4.4%) in the same category. By contrast, 12.5% of black working women earned less than the poverty threshold, a rate significantly higher than the rate for black working men (7.2%). Asian women, as well, experienced a poverty rate higher than that of Asian men (5.1% compared with 4.5%); the rate for Hispanic and Latino working men and women, at 10.9%, was the same during 2003. (See Table 1.13.)

Education and Poverty Rate

Among all the people in the labor force at least twenty-seven weeks during 2003, those with less than a high school diploma had a higher poverty rate (14.1%) than high school graduates (6.2%), according to the BLS in A Profile of the Working Poor, 2003. Workers who had attained at least an associate degree (3.2%) or had graduated from college (1.7%) reported the lowest poverty rates. Poverty rates for black and Hispanic workers were 1.5 to two times higher than for white workers at many corresponding education levels. Poverty rates for Asian workers were also greater than for white workers, although the differences were less than for black or Hispanic workers. (See Table 1.14.)

The poverty rate for black women workers with less than a high school diploma who were in the labor force at least twenty-seven weeks during 2003 was 28%, compared with 16.9% for black men with the same education. Among high school graduates, the poverty rate for black women (15.6%) was more than twice that of black men (7.4%). Among black college graduates, poverty rates decreased and equalized somewhat; black women graduates had a poverty rate of 2.1% in 2003 compared with 1.4% for black male graduates. Poverty rates of white men and women and Hispanic men and women were more similar than those noted among African-Americans, but women in these groups still experienced higher poverty than men did at most education levels. For Asian workers, women fared better than men at the lower education levels, but experienced higher rates of poverty than men as education increased. (See Table 1.14.)

Occupations

During 2003, according to A Profile of the Working Poor, 2003, the lowest probability of being poor was experienced by people working in managerial and professional specialty occupations (average poverty rate for men and women: 2%). In contrast, the average poverty rates for workers in service occupations and farming/fishing/forestry sectors were 10.6% and 14.6%, respectively. In all occupational groups except office and administrative support, women were more likely than men were to be poor. In general, African-Americans and those of Hispanic/Latino ethnicity were more likely to be below the poverty level than whites. Of the 5.8 million Asian-Americans in TABLE 1.6 Employment and unemployment in families by race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 2003–04the labor force at least twenty-seven weeks during 2003, 2.5 million (43.8%) were employed in management, professional, and related occupations; the poverty rate for these people averaged 1.5% in 2003. Other occupations also had low poverty rates, although the numbers of Asian-Americans employed in these categories was markedly less than the other groups. (See Table 1.15.)

TABLE 1.6
Employment and unemployment in families by race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 2003–04
[Numbers in thousands]
Characteristic 2003 2004
Total
    Total families 75,301 75,872
With employed member(s) 61,761 62,424
    As percent of total families 82.0 82.3
        Some usually work full time* 57,229 57,813
With no employed member 13,540 13,447
    As percent of total families 18.0 17.7
With unemployed member(s) 6,079 5,593
    As percent of total families 8.1 7.4
Some member(s) employed 4,285 3,915
    As percent of families with unemployed member(s) 70.5 70.0
Some usually work full time* 3,790 3,494
    As percent of families with unemployed member(s) 62.3 62.5
White
    Total families 61,995 62,250
With employed member(s) 51,002 51,350
    As percent of total families 82.3 82.5
        Some usually work full time* 47,356 47,620
With no employed member 10,993 10,900
    As percent of total families 17.7 17.5
With unemployed member(s) 4,411 4,078
    As percent of total families 7.1 6.6
Some member(s) employed 3,245 3,000
    As percent of families with unemployed member(s) 73.6 73.6
Some usually work full time* 2,873 2,677
    As percent of families with unemployed member(s) 65.1 65.7
Black or African American
    Total families 8,869 8,860
With employed member(s) 6,906 6,920
    As percent of total families 77.9 78.1
        Some usually work full time* 6,270 6,692
With no employed member 1,963 1,940
    As percent of total families 22.1 21.9
With unemployed member(s) 1,213 1,127
    As percent of total families 13.7 12.7
Some member(s) employed 695 625
    As percent of families with unemployed member(s) 57.3 55.5
Some usually work full time* 612 556
    As percent of families with unemployed member(s) 50.5 49.3
Asian
    Total families 2,880 3,107
With employed member(s) 2,566 2,775
    As percent of total families 89.1 89.3
        Some usually work full time* 2,424 2,630
With no employed member 315 332
    As percent of total families 10.9 10.7
With unemployed member(s) 271 208
    As percent of total families 9.4 6.7
Some member(s) employed 224 171
    As percent of families with unemployed member(s) 82.7 82.1
Some usually work full time* 197 154
    As percent of families with unemployed member(s) 72.7 74.1

TABLE 1.6 Employment and unemployment in families by race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 2003–04 (CONTINUED) "Table 1. Employment and Unemployment in Families by Race and Hispanic or Latino Ethnicity, 2003–04 Annual Averages," in Employment Characteristics of Families in 2004, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 9, 2005, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/famee.pdf (accessed January 9, 2006)

TABLE 1.6
Employment and unemployment in families by race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 2003–04 (CONTINUED)
[Numbers in thousands]
Characteristic 2003 2004
*Usually work 35 hours or more a week at all jobs.
Note: The race or ethnicity of the family is determined by that of the householder. Estimates for the above race groups (white, black or African American, and Asian) do not sum to totals because data are not presented for all races. In addition, persons whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race and, therefore, are classified by ethnicity as well as by race. Data for 2004 reflect revised population controls used in the Current Population Survey.
SOURCE: "Table 1. Employment and Unemployment in Families by Race and Hispanic or Latino Ethnicity, 2003–04 Annual Averages," in Employment Characteristics of Families in 2004, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 9, 2005, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/famee.pdf (accessed January 9, 2006)
Hispanic or Latino ethnicity
    Total families 9,185 9,305
With employed member(s) 7,907 8,071
    As percent of total families 86.1 86.7
        Some usually work full time* 7,383 7,566
With no employed member 1,277 1,235
    As percent of total families 13.9 13.3
With unemployed member(s) 1,020 950
    As percent of total families 11.1 10.2
Some member(s) employed 715 664
    As percent of families with unemployed member(s) 70.1 69.9
Some usually work full time* 640 594
    As percent of families with unemployed member(s) 62.7 62.5

In 2003 men experienced a higher poverty rate in only one occupational group, office and administrative support, with a rate of 4.3% compared with 3.1% for women. In all other occupations, men fared better than women did. The poverty rate for women employed in sales and related occupations (8.4%) was more than two times that of their male counterparts (3.9%). (See Table 1.15.)

Poverty Trends by Family Structure

In 2003, of the 4.2 million families who lived below the poverty level, 3.5 million families had at least one member in the labor market for twenty-seven weeks or more. Of these, 1.9 million families were headed by women. The poverty rate for families (the ratio of poor families with workers to all families with workers) was 6.6%. The poverty rate for families with just one member in the labor force (13.1%) was over seven times more than that of families with two or more members in the workforce (1.8%). Families maintained by women with only one member in the labor force (with a poverty rate of 22.5%) were significantly more likely to be poor than similar families maintained by men (13.5%). Married-couple families with two or more members in the labor force had the lowest poverty rate (1.5%). (See Table 1.16.)

TABLE 1.7 Families by presence and relationship of employed members and family type, 2003–04 "Table 2. Families by Presence and Relationship of Employed Members and Family Type, 2003–04 Annual Averages," in Employment Characteristics of Families in 2004, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 9, 2005, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/famee.pdf (accessed January 9, 2006)

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TABLE 1.7
Families by presence and relationship of employed members and family type, 2003–04
[Numbers in thousands]
Characteristic Number Percent distribution
2003 2004 2003 2004
Note: Detail may not sum to totals due to rounding.
*No spouse present.
SOURCE: "Table 2. Families by Presence and Relationship of Employed Members and Family Type, 2003–04 Annual Averages," in Employment Characteristics of Families in 2004, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 9, 2005, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/famee.pdf (accessed January 9, 2006)
Married-couple families
    Total 57,074 57,188 100.0 100.0
Member(s) employed, total 47,535 47,767 83.3 83.5
    Husband only 11,403 11,712 20.0 20.5
    Wife only 3,863 3,843 6.8 6.7
    Husband and wife 29,077 28,991 50.9 50.7
    Other employment combinations 3,193 3,222 5.6 5.6
No member(s) employed 9,539 9,420 16.7 16.5
Families maintained by women*
    Total 13,450 13,614 100.0 100.0
Member(s) employed, total 10,187 10,358 75.7 76.1
    Huseholder only 5,987 6,021 44.5 44.2
    Householder and other member(s) 2,539 2,701 18.9 19.8
    Other member(s), not householder 1,660 1,636 12.3 12.0
    No member(s) employed 3,263 3,255 24.3 23.9
Families maintained by men*
    Total 4,777 5,071 100.0 100.0
Member(s) employed, total 4,039 4,299 84.6 84.8
    Huseholder only 1,954 2,060 40.9 40.6
    Householder and other member(s) 1,427 1,557 29.9 30.7
    Other member(s), not householder 658 682 13.8 13.5
No member(s) employed 739 772 15.5 15.2
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