True to the task in tough times
Workforce diversity along racial and ethnic lines likely took a big hit during the recession that began in 2007, economists and human resources professionals said.
That’s because job losses during the downturn disproportionately affected blacks and Latinos, who made up a higher proportion of workers in hard-hit industries such as construction and manufacturing. Even as the jobs picture begins to improve, the unemployment rate for blacks as of May was 15.5 percent, compared with 12.4 percent for Hispanics, and 8.8 percent for whites, according to the federal government.
“The labor force is less diverse, simply because of the sharper job losses among African-Americans and Latinos,’’ said Christian Weller, a professor of public policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
The impact on any one particular company, though, is harder to gauge, he said, because the job losses were concentrated in the construction and manufacturing sectors. Companies outside of those areas, he notes, may not have suffered a significant loss in diversity.
Carol Edson, director of membership at the New England Human Resources Association, said she doesn’t that think employers lost focus on diversity efforts during the downturn, even though they were doing more laying off than hiring. And forward-thinking companies are going to want to make sure they offer an environment that is welcoming to diverse personnel, as the pace of hiring quickens.
“They are asking, ‘when we’re competing again for labor, are we viewed as inclusive?’ ’’ she said.