Latino unemployment rate hits four-year low, but it’s not all good news

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    The Latino unemployment rate reached 9.0 in April, trailing behind the national unemployment rate of 7.5 percent. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

    The U.S. employment report released Friday shows the Latino unemployment rate in April dropped to 9.0 percent, down from 9.2 in March.

    The latest unemployment rate for Latinos is the lowest it has been since November 2008, when it reached 8.6 percent, though it still trails behind the national average.

    Nationwide, the unemployment rate came to a four-year low of 7.5 percent in April after employers added 165,000 jobs. That’s down from 7.6 percent in March, according to data released Friday by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    The unemployment rate was 5.1 percent for Asians, 6.7 percent for whites and 13.2 for blacks.

    Latest Latino unemployment rate is not all good news

    Some would argue that the recent decrease in the Latino unemployment rate indicates Latinos are starting to find jobs again, after being hit hard by the recent recession.

    But Alicia Criado, policy associate with the economic and employment policy project at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), warned that the recent decreases in the unemployment hasn’t been all good news for Latinos. She said that although last month’s numbers were actually good across most indicators, the drop in the unemployment rate for Latinos between February and March was a result of 209,000 Latinos who left the labor market, meaning they stopped actively searching for work.

    “That’s not what we want to see,” Criado told VOXXI. “We want to see as many people who are able to participate in the labor market do so.”

    More bad news is the unemployment rate for Latino youth ages 16 to 24. It reached 18 percent, double the overall Latino unemployment rate, according to an NCLR monthly Latino employment report issued Friday.

    The good news is that the Latino labor force participation rate continues to be the highest of any demographic group. It stood at 65.7 percent in April.

    “Latinos definitely contribute and help to make our economy stronger and are found in many of the industries that help boost our economy,” Criado said, responding to the 65.7 percent Latino labor force participation.

    Latinos face obstacles accessing newly created jobs

    Job gains were made in several professions in April.

    Professional and business services added 73,000 new jobs; food services and drinking places added 38,000; retail trade added 29,000; and health care added 19,000. In the last 12 months, employment growth averaged 169,000 per month.

    Criado said though these job gains are good news for people seeking jobs, she pointed to research from the Economic Policy Institution that shows that for every job that is created, there are three people who are seeking a job.

    “Clearly there is a gap there,” she said. “For Latinos in particular who face many obstacles and barriers in the labor market, there’s a series of challenges that prevent them from accessing jobs, especially in growth industries.”

    Criado is part of a team at NCLR that works through a number of channels — including research, policy and advocacy — to address the need to create more jobs. They also work to ensure Latinos “are strong candidates” and can actually access those newly created jobs.

    What it would take to lower Latino unemployment rate

    Former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis spoke in February during the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s (MALDEF) Latino State of the Union event about how Latinos were hit extra hard by the recent recession.

    Solis said one of the ways to get more Latinos employed is by ensuring they get a college education and and the training they need to get higher-paying jobs.

    Criado agreed, saying, “There is definitely a correlation between the more education you attain, the better the prospects will be in the labor market and the better career paths that you’ll have access to.”

    In March, President Barack Obama nominated Thomas E. Perez to succeed Solis and become the new Secretary of Labor. He awaits confirmation from Congress — a committee vote is scheduled for next week. For now, the acting Secretary of Labor is Seth D. Harris.

    Criado said she hopes the next Secretary of Labor will work to lower the Latino unemployment rate. She also hopes the new leader will prioritize investment in job training as well as in worker health and safety, two areas she said are critical for Latino workers.

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