Unemployment Down, but not for Latinos

This is a cliché good news-bad news story.

The national unemployment rate has fallen to 8.8 percent. There were 216 thousand jobs added across the country in the month of March so more Americans put their shoes on this morning to go to work than they have in many  months.

And yet, unemployment for Latinos still hovers around 12 percent. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Compared with Anglos and African-Americans, Hispanics have a higher-than-average unemployment rate, less education and higher rate of on-the-job fatalities, according to the report titled “The Hispanic Labor Force in the Recovery.”

“We know more needs to be done to get Hispanics back to work,” Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said during a conference call with reporters Thursday. She said the report was a fitting tribute to the late farm worker and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, whose 84th birthday would have been Thursday.

The bright side is that out-of-work Latinos find work faster than non-Latinos. There are less Latinos on the long-term unemployed lists – which, according to the Labor Department, is 27 weeks or more. We’ll let the experts scratch their heads on this one, we know it’s a matter of ¡échenle ganas!

Part of the explanation for Latino unemployment has to do with education levels. For people with a bachelor’s degree or higher the unemployment rate is 6 percent. But for workers with no high school diploma it’s 13.2 percent.  All discussions lead to education.

Hispanics at least age 25 who have jobs are significantly less likely to have college diplomas than either blacks or Anglos, according to the report. The proportion is 16.9 percent for Hispanics, 36.1 percent for Anglos and 26 percent for blacks, the Labor Department said.

To encourage more Hispanics to find good jobs, the department recommends enrolling more of them in government-sponsored job training programs for low-income and at-risk youth; providing training opportunities in energy efficiency and renewable energy industries; and encouraging more Hispanics to pursue careers in engineering, technology and science.

Here’s another variable to put in the Latino unemployment equation:  Latinos work disproportionately in high-risk industries. And Latino workers had the highest rate of work-related fatalities in 2009.

And then there’s always the immigration issue. There  have been, for many years, consistent reports of Latinos leaving their jobs in fear of deportation treats. Most of the time the deportation threats come after a wage dispute or claims of sexual harassment. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has carved-out an agreement with ICE on the matter:

…(she) announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has agreed to suspend worksite immigration investigations for sites where the Labor Department is investigating labor disputes such as a wage and hour, family and medical leave, discrimination or health and safety issues. The agreement was part of a memorandum of understanding between the Labor Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

The agreement will protect workers during wage theft and other investigations, Solis said.

Follow Victor Landa on Twitter: @vlanda
[Photo by Bytemarks]

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