At Long Last, Latino Employment Bounces Back

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

GuardRailWorkers_12_2_2014The U.S. economic recovery is in full force. February marked the 12th consecutive month of job growth above 200,000, with U.S. employers adding nearly 300,000 new jobs. But an even more promising sign of recovery is the jump in Hispanic employment. A front-page article in Sunday’s New York Times points out that the unemployment rate for Latinos has finally returned to its pre-recession average and job growth for Hispanics is outpacing other groups. This is good news for everybody, since Hispanics and Blacks were two of the communities hardest hit by the recession. The fact that not only Latino but also Black job growth in recent months is outstripping that of the job market overall means the recovery is more complete, more widespread, and more sustainable. But before we declare mission accomplished, let’s take a closer look at the economic recovery and the Latino employment picture.

The good news is that Latino unemployment is declining because more Latinos are working. As has historically been the case, Latinos are more likely than other workers to be employed or actively seeking work. Last month, the Latino labor force participation rate was 66 percent, compared to 63 percent for Whites and 61 percent for Blacks. Throughout the recovery, NCLR has highlighted several growth industries where Latinos are overrepresented, including restaurants and temp firms, home care, and retail. The revival of the construction industry in particular, where Latinos make up one-quarter of the workforce, is one industry that is helping the unemployment rate bounce back. Job gains in construction are also visible to those who do not work directly in construction, helping to build overall confidence among Latinos that the broader economy is improving. More work is probably the main reason that Latinos experienced a small, though significant, decline in poverty in 2013 when no other group experienced a change.

farmworker_thanks_newWhenever there is good news about Latinos, we brace for an attack from those who seek to blame immigrants for their own economic woes, despite the fact that the article confirms what we and many others have been saying all along—the Obama administration has engaged in an unprecedented amount of immigration law enforcement. But as Noam Scheiber points out, it’s U.S. citizens, not immigrants, who are the primary Latino beneficiaries of the job growth in the economic recovery. Many people are surprised to learn that U.S. citizens are now the majority of the Latino workforce. Additionally, U.S.-born workers either benefit or are not affected at all when immigrants find work. In the article, Giovanni Peri, a well-respected expert on the economic effects of immigration, sums up the virtuous cycle this way: “More construction workers generates the need for more supervisors, more managers to coordinate them, more contractors to give them work.”

But while the availability of jobs is improving, more needs to be done to raise the quality of those jobs to ensure that the benefits of the economic recovery are more widely shared. In a poll conducted by NCLR last summer, a majority of Latino voters said that they have not seen improvement in their household finances since the Great Recession. Fifty percent added that they are worried that they may not have enough money to pay their basic bills. Indeed, wages are growing slowly, but Latinos are more likely to earn poverty-level wages. This stems in part from a long-term trend in which wages have not kept pace with worker productivity. A White House report points this out directly: “In 2014, average real wages for production and nonsupervisory workers increased 0.8 percent after increasing 0.7 percent in 2013. Although not sufficient, these increases are a marked improvement from the 2000s, including the pre‑Great Recession years of 2001 to 2007, when real wage growth averaged 0.5 percent a year.” In addition, there has been a marked rise in part-time work—even among workers who would rather work full-time.

Labor-Day-Banner-Photo-6_resizedClearly the U.S. economy is moving in the right direction, but more needs to be done to build on the gains of hard work to ensure that all workers reap the benefits of the improving economy. These include:

  • Raising the federal minimum wage to restore its value to keep a full-time working family out of poverty. This should be at the top of Congress’s agenda.
  • Stepping up enforcement of labor laws, including basic health and safety protections, to make sure that workers do not pay with their lives—as many Latino workers do—for a day’s wage.
  • Making permanent the 2009 expansions of the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, which keep 16 million people out of deep poverty.

The good news is that Latinos and other communities are finally benefiting from the protracted economic recovery. It will be even better news if we make policy changes such as those above and make the investments necessary—as well as enacting comprehensive immigration reform, which will end wage abuse and put all workers on a level playing field. We need to secure this still-fragile recovery among communities of color by maximizing what they can earn, create, and contribute to further benefit our economy and the well-being of all Americans.

Latest Job Figures Show Decrease in Latino Unemployment Rate

highway-guardrail_560x292December ended on a strong note for the U.S. labor market. New numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor showed the employers added 252,000 jobs last month. The increase resulted in a slightly lower unemployment rate of 5.6 percent. In the Latino community, the rate also decreased to 6.5 percent, the lowest since February 2008.

In our latest edition of the Monthly Latino Employment Report, we take a closer look at how December shaped up for the Latino job market. Find out more in the full report below.

A Mother’s View on College- and Career-Ready Standards

By Leticia de la Vara, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation, NCLR

(Cross-posed from Mom’s Rising)

ACAdiabetesblog_pic1When my daughter was born 12 years ago, I was a young, scared mom. I wasn’t sure about much in terms of mothering, but I knew one thing: my daughter would own her future and deserved the best from me in order to get there. As mothers, we are always trying to do what’s best for our children. We worry not only about their health and safety, but also about their education, especially when it concerns meeting educational benchmarks appropriate for their age. Studies have conclusively determined that parental involvement in education has a positive impact on the short- and long-term success of young students. Still, many of us have felt limited in what we can do to shape or reinforce what our children are learning in school. We have often felt more like observers than actual participants, but new school standards are helping to change that.

Across the country the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are being implemented in public and charter schools. This new approach sets standards for what kids should know by certain grades regardless of their income level or ZIP code. The CCSS will also allow school districts to identify ways to develop curricula to meet the needs of their students while benchmarking them to national and international standards to ensure our children’s success. Additionally, it gives parents the opportunity to get more involved in preparing their children for the future.

GraduationIn 44 states, educators and parents alike have shown overwhelming support for the Common Core. Our teachers need flexibility in the classroom that gives them more time to emphasize a deeper analysis of subjects rather than focusing on quick memorization, something which the CCSS aims to do. It is raising the bar for our children and reawakening in them a love of learning that connects what they are absorbing in the classroom to the evolving world around them.

In the Latino community specifically, these standards will allow our students—and us as parents—to ensure that our children are challenged in the classroom and able to compete with peers in their state, across the country, and around the world once they graduate. In my state, Arizona, Latinos represent 47 percent of the population under 19; their success is closely tied to the success of the state’s economy. Yet a gap in educational attainment exists between Latinos and their White counterparts throughout the country. Some of this disparity is due to economic factors and language proficiency.

Our children will inherit an increasingly competitive job market that requires them to be sharp critical thinkers, quick problem solvers, and effective communicators. That is why NCLR supports the Common Core State Standards as a national imperative. It is crucial that we do all we can to prepare the emerging generation for their future jobs and make America’s economy more robust and competitive as a result. The Common Core State Standards will help close the existing educational gap by raising the bar and ensuring that all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic status, have an equal chance to succeed—giving them the best opportunity to own their futures. That’s all a mother could want.