New Availability Figures for Diverse Candidates: No Surprises – The U.S. is Target Rich with Plenty of Diverse Candidates

We first report, below, the true and recent facts about the number of diversity candidates in the U.S. We also then report the evidence of the differential hiring rates which are unfortunately emerging as America re-opens for business as we slowly wrestle the COVID-19 pandemic under control and return more and more employees to work.

Against that troubling background of what is emerging as our nation re-opens closed businesses, we then convert to a comprehensive D&I Checklist to help your company think through the mechanics of the many different things which contribute to a successful D&I recruitment, hiring, promotion and retention program.

With the advent of nationwide vaccinations, the U.S. economy has begun its slow but steady emergence from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, in December 2020 the U.S. labor market showed an increase in total job openings to 6.65 million. DirectEmployers reports that its National Labor Exchange (NLx) is almost back to its pre-pandemic capacity in the volume of available jobs DE daily delivers to One-Stop Employment Centers across the 50 states and civilized federal territories. As businesses seek to fill available positions with the reopening of the economy, the emerging evidence is that employers have large pools of diverse individuals available for hire, as we will show below.

Two major benefits to employers provide sufficient justification for companies to ensure their diversity efforts do not fall by the wayside as employment opportunities continue to expand amid the re-opening of America.

First, it is axiomatic that in seeking to fulfill demand, a company should go where there is available supply. And the evidence continues to establish the wide-spread availability of jobseekers among diverse groups to fill many (even if not all) of the employment needs of businesses. This is especially true in light of the pandemic’s disproportionate effect upon diverse group employment. For example, a recent McKinsey article reported that the effect of COVID-19 on the American workforce had exaggerated the disparity in employment between diverse groups and White males. This occurred because diverse workers occupied the vast majority of jobs in industries most adversely affected by community shutdowns. Diverse groups are therefore a large and waiting ready-pool for companies attempting to find candidates as they re-open those hard-hit industries.

Second, and most importantly, hundreds of studies establish that companies with diverse leadership teams and employment outperform less diverse peers, both in profitability and in positive corporate perception. This includes evidence that large businesses with women on the Boards of Directors have higher returns on equity, lower debt to equity ratios, and higher average net income growth in comparison to businesses with male-only Boards; evidence that inclusive decision-making leads to better business decisions; and that the likelihood that diverse companies will out-earn their industry peers has grown.

While we occasionally observe larger numbers of diverse candidates reported from time-to time, the most recent Employment Situation Report from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the true and accurate market availability of available diverse workers. In January 2021, there were approximately 128.6 million diverse individuals (total) in the United States labor force (BLS broadly defines the “labor force” to include those age 16 and older who are either working or actively looking for work.) In addition, BLS expansively defines “diverse individuals” to include all but White men, as follows:

  • Approximately 54,489,000 White Women 20 years and over;
  • Approximately 20,087,000 Blacks;
  • Approximately 28,831,000 Hispanics;
  • Approximately 10,231,000 Asians;
  • Approximately 5,846,000 Individuals with Disabilities; and
  • Approximately 9,115,000 Veterans

These figures include, in part, a portion of the approximately four million individuals who qualify as “long-term unemployed.” According to the BLS, “long-term unemployed are people who have been looking for work for 27 weeks or longer.” These are the workers the very robust pre-pandemic economy had begun to inspire to get out of their homes and back into the workforce by the hundreds of thousands each month, especially African Americans (and giving rise to the lowest unemployment rates for African Americans on record).

Given their population totals in the United States, the number of diverse individuals in the labor force at the end of January 2021 produces the following participation rates among diverse groups (the BLS defines the “participation rate” percentage to be the number of people working divided by the number of people in that population category):

  • 69.5% participation rate for White men (compare against it as a Benchmark)
  • 56.1% participation rate for White women;
  • 60% participation rate for Blacks (59.9% for Black women);
  • 64.8% participation rate for Hispanics (57.8% for Hispanic women);
  • 62.3% participation rate for Asians;
  • 19.6% participation rate for Individuals with Disabilities (31.4% for disabled women); and
  • 48% participation rate for Veterans.

The large differential availabilities for hire of individuals from diverse groups provides employers a market worth mining to meet hiring needs and to contribute to corporate success. Nor should employers limit their interest in persons who are unemployed. Research reveals that the reasons for the availability of these diverse individuals are varied, and very rarely because these individuals are not desirable employees.

For example, as to Black unemployment, there have been many recent studies exploring why, even during times where there is a tightening labor market due to strong economic growth and prosperity, the unemployment rate among Black workers in the U.S. is continuously almost double that of Whites. One journal article cites automation, imports from China, rising participation in Disability Insurance programs, a diminished desire for employment due to falling marriage rates (marriage has historically noticeably prompted young men, in particular, to seek gainful employment to support their new family), and incarceration as all playing a not insignificant role in reducing the employment among less-educated males (of which Black males make up a disheartening, disproportionate share of that population).

Likewise, a Federal Reserve working paper finds that the gap between the employment participation rates of White and Black employees in the U.S. cannot be explained due to common labor market factors such as age, education, geography, and marital status, but does not attribute the primary reason for the gap to unlawful discrimination. On the other hand, a February 2020 article from the progressive Center for American Progress cited structural barriers in the labor market as the primary reason for the large gap between White and Black employment, including most notably unlawful hiring discrimination and the large number of Black men in jail and unavailable to work. While the U.S. (federal) prison and (state) jail populations of African Americans have been shrinking quickly relative to Whites over the last decade, in 2018, Black males nonetheless made up 34% of the total male federal prison population, White males made up 29% and Hispanic males made up 24%; while White women made up 47% of the female prison population, and Black women made up only 18% of the federal female prison population. All-in-all at the end of 2018, even after steep reductions in the number and percentages of African Americans in our prisons and jails, over 2% of Black men were imprisoned. And among African Americans age 35-39, five percent were incarcerated. And think about the impact on marriage, and its separate contribution to the impetus to work, when 2% to 5% of Black men are unavailable because of incarceration.

Regardless, however, of the reason that so many diverse individuals remain available for employment, numerous studies confirm that there are large numbers of diverse individuals available for hire in many different job classifications. In addition to a marketplace reputation and brand for fairly hiring and promoting diverse individuals, deploying aggressive and comprehensive outreach efforts, pipeline programs (internships and apprentice programs), corporate retention programs and corporate educational grants and tuition reimbursement programs remain successful tools for effective corporate diversity recruitment and retention in a field awash in diverse candidates.

Want Access to our Diversity & Inclusion Quality Control Checklist?

A well-thought-out strategy can help move the needle further, and we’ve created a D&I Quality Control Checklist to support your endeavors as you embark on what D&I may look like for your organization. Gain access to this carefully curated checklist by completing the short form below.

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Candee Chambers
Jay J. Wang
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