The nation's 20.8 million Hispanics have made modest economic progress since the end of the last recession in 1982 but still lag behind the non-Hispanic population, a Census Bureau report showed Wednesday.

The report, based on the March 1990 Current Population Survey and not the April 1 decennial census, found that Hispanic unemployment in 1990 - 8.2 percent - had been halved since March 1983, the first survey after the end of the last recession.And it found the poverty rate for Hispanic families had been lowered by a little less than 4 percentage points during the recovery, from 27.2 percent to 23.4 percent, but still substantially above the 9.2 percent poverty rate for non-Hispanic families.

Nearly 48 percent of all Hispanics in poverty were children under 18 years of age, the report said. "Hispanic children represented 21 percent of all children living in poverty, but only 11 percent of all children in the United States," it said.

The report also said that the median income for Hispanic families in 1989 was $23,446, up 12.4 percent from the 1983 level of $20,851 but just 67 percent of the median income of non-Hispanic families, which was $35,200.

"The differences in earnings between Hispanics and non-Hispanics can be further examined by comparing the distribution of the earnings," it said.

It said that in March 1990, about 78 percent of Hispanic males earned less than $25,000 a year, compared with 55 percent for non-Hispanic males. Just 4 percent of Hispanic males had earnings of $50,000 or more as compared with about 12 percent of non-Hispanic males, the report said.

According to the report, there was considerable variation in a number of economic and social characteristics of various Hispanic sub-groups.

It found, for example, the proportion of Puerto Rican-origin families earning less than $10,000 in 1989 was 28 percent, the highest of any of the sub-groups. On the other hand, proportionately more Cuban families - 23.5 percent - earned more than $50,000 in 1990 compared with other sub-groups, with 15.4 percent of Puerto Rican families earning more than $50,000, 17.5 percent of those with Central and South American origins and just 12.6 percent of Mexican-origin families.

The report said Hispanics made "modest" gains in educational attainment in the 1980s, but the rate of that progress was slowed when compared with the 1970s.

In March 1983, almost 16 percnet of Hispanics age 25 and over had completed less than 5 years of schooling, while in March 1990 that percentage was down to 12 percent.