Jonathan J. Higuera

Latinos and the job market

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Most economists characterized the December jobs report as a positive sign for the country’s rebounding economy. About 155,000 jobs were added in the final month of 2012, as the national unemployment rate held steady at 7.8 percent. But, beyond that positive headline, some troubling signs still exist.

For U.S. Latinos, the jobless rate stood at 9.6 percent during that same period.

The U.S. Department of Labor identified about 22 million Latinos in the workforce while 2.3 million were unemployed. Despite the unchanged unemployment rate overall, some 12.2 million people were looking for work in December, an increase of 164,000 from the previous month. That could be attributed to previously discouraged workers getting back into the hunt.

A somewhat disturbing figure was the number of Latinos who were not looking for work. That figure grew to 1.3 million, an increase of 431,000 from January to December 2012. These are people who are stay-at-home parents or recent retirees, but it also includes people who are too discouraged to even look for work.

Again, Latinos had the highest workforce participation rate of all groups at nearly 65.9 percent compared with a 63.6 percent rate for all civilians. While Latinos clearly are trabajadores, it’s the quality of the jobs they get that concerns Latino advocates like the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).

NCLR’s Monthly Latino Employment Report issued in January emphasized that “In several industries, Hispanic workers are concentrated in low-wage occupations. For instance, in the transportation sector, Hispanics are concentrated in a handful of jobs that pay below the median wage for transportation and material-moving occupations.” 

Hispanic workers are also more likely to encounter occupational safety and health risks related to poor job quality. Sadly, Latinos had the highest rate of on-the-job fatalities in 2011, according to the Report.

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