With the beginning of the New Year, there will be much speculation about how the economy will fare in 2010 for Asian Pacific Islanders. Will the economy continue to plummet as it did this past year? What sectors will be hit the hardest? How will Asian Pacific Islanders manage in these turbulent economic times? We asked two prominent experts – Alan Sugiyama, from the Center for Career Alternatives (based in Seattle area), and Larry Shinagawa, Director of Asian American studies at the University of Maryland – questions that many APIs have been harboring this past year with regards to the economy for 2010.

When looking at the numbers, perhaps the most striking statistic of 2009 is the API unemployment percentage. In October of 2009, the unemployment percentage for APIs was 7.5 percent, as compared to 10.2 percent nationwide. Dr. Shinagawa states that the relatively low unemployment percentage can be explained by two factors.

“The first factor is higher education. Asian Americans receive degrees at a higher rate,” says Shinagawa. “Asians Americans are also into business, science, and other areas that have great stability. The second factor is that they live in areas where the economy is much better than other areas.”

Will these figures carry over into 2010? Dr. Shinagawa says ‘yes.’ While small businesses and ethnic economies will be hit hard, “the percentage is better in other areas. Areas that will do well are education, government, technology and corporations.”

APIs will be competing in a tight job market in 2010.

“There will be an erosion of blue collar sector,” says Shinagawa. “Small business will erode as well. The Immigrant community that has recently arrived will have a difficult time. Those who will weather this pretty well are people who have higher education, those people who are already involved in the four sectors. Asian Americans are in relatively stable condition.”

What is the likelihood APIs will keep their job or find another career opportunity in 2010? Shinagawa states that most will stay with their jobs.

“In my opinion they will retain their jobs and I don’t see a major shift right away. There might be some changes in the legal profession, which people are going to in record numbers. There might not be enough jobs for lawyers, or people with an MBA. People are going onto graduate school or teaching in other countries.”

On predicting what the job market will be like for 2010, Shinagawa remains upbeat.

“The job market will be pretty stable. There will be some dampening of opportunities in the ethnic community. People will go to government sector not corporate sector. First generation will go into small businesses. The 1.5 generation tend to go into government jobs and areas of management and education. It’s not clear what will happen to corporate or small businesses. They might not do as well”.

The CCA’s Al Sugiyama, however, is far less optimistic.

“There are too many unknowns. There are positive signs; companies are doing a little bit better. But companies will be hesitant to hire. Everything is so unknown. It’s hard to tell right now. These are different experiences than we’ve had in the past. A lot of API businesses will fold. Universities will raise tuition. Financial aid is now being cut. The economy is affecting everyone. It’s affecting every sector. APIs will be affected as well.”

Regardless of one’s stance on the job market in 2010, APIs will be experiencing at least some financial hardships because of the economy. Despite the projected lower unemployment rates of APIs, the unemployment rate in general is steadily climbing. The hardest to be hit are ethnic communities, which make up first generation immigrants and those who have recently immigrated to the US.

There are some rays of hope, however. Shinagawa states that the economic stimulus bill, initiated by Obama some time ago, will pick up the economy in 2010. The military and health care sectors will stabilize under the second part of Obama’s stimulus bill. The cultural factors discussed earlier which keep the unemployment rate low will continue to maintain economic stability for APIs. Despite the hardships to be encountered this year, APIs can hope that some relief will be close at hand.

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