New figures from the U.S. Congress’ Joint Economic Committee (JEC) show that the most recent economic recession has disproportionately impacted Hispanics on a national level and pushed their unemployment numbers up.
The 2010 report from the JEC, “Understanding the Economy: Unemployment in the Hispanic Community,” found that as of December 2007, the federal unemployment rate of Hispanics more than doubled from 6.3 percent to 12.6 percent, with 2.9 million unemployed by October 2009. As of March 2010, the unemployment rate of Hispanics was still nearly 2.9 percentage points higher than in the general population.
At the state level, Hispanic unemployment stood at 10.4 percent in 2009 compared to 8.3 percent for the overall population. These figures include undocumented Hispanics.
“Hispanics were working in sectors and living in regions of the country that were pounded during the recession,” said Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, chair of the Joint Economic Committee, about states like California, Florida, and Nevada.
“Not only were Hispanics a significant part of the industries hardest hit by the recession, but they have also been underrepresented in education and health activities – sectors that have experienced growth during the Great Recession.”
The report noted that because Hispanics had been over-represented in industries like construction, manufacturing, and leisure and hospitality before the recession, when these sectors took a hit from falling home prices, outsourcing and a slowdown in tourism and travel, Hispanics lost jobs at a faster rate than others.
The JEC did not have any data about whether language skills affected the unemployment rates; however in both 2008 and 2009, the unemployment rate of foreign-born and native born men was within five percentage points of one another. There was no difference in the unemployment rate of college educated versus high school dropouts along ethnic lines – the more educated, the more likely to be employed.
The JEC numbers also measured the “underemployment” figure, those workers who involuntarily work part-time – they prefer to work full-time – or workers who have looked for a job in the past year but have stopped. The number of underemployed Hispanic stood at 25.1 percent compared to 17.5 percent for the overall labor force.
“Jobs are what shape a community. It affects everything from housing, consumer spending, entertainment, transportation, higher education,” said Carlisle Towery, executive director of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation. “I can’t think of any good affect [of unemployment]. Can you?”