Report Shows Surge in Hispanic Employment, Especially For Immigrants, But Not All Have Benefited

Report Shows Surge in Hispanic Employment, Especially For Immigrants, But Not All Have Benefited

Latinos experienced substantial gains in the U.S. labor market in 2003. The number of Hispanics added to the employment rolls was twice as high as in 2002, and unemployment eased downward. For the first time since January 2000, Latinos experienced increases in employment that consistently outpaced their population growth in the United States. The increase in the number of Latinos employed over the course of the year was nearly double the mark for non-Latinos, suggesting that Latinos took a disproportionate share of new job opportunities.

But, not all Hispanics benefited from these trends. Immigrant males, especially the most recently arrived, and those in the construction industry, showed by far the greatest increase in employment. Hispanic women and native-born Latinos, particularly those of the rapidly growing second generation, did not do nearly as well. A recovery for a wider segment of the Latino labor force may be some distance in the future. 

These are among the key findings of a new Pew Hispanic Center report, “Latino Labor Report, 2003: Strong but Uneven Gains in Employment,” on the labor market developments for Hispanics in 2003. As President Bush and the Democratic contenders debate the state of the economy and their various economic remedies, this Pew Hispanic Center study looks at how immigrant and native-born Hispanics have fared in today's job market. The report examines a variety of trends in employment, wages, differences in job growth, changes since the 2001 recession, and prospects for recovery in 2004. 

“The labor market is showing clear demand for Latino immigrants, but other segments of the Latino population are not faring as well,” said Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center. “Prospects for an ongoing recovery for Hispanics still remain uncertain unless economic growth is spread across more sectors of the economy.” 

Rakesh Kochhar, a veteran economist and a senior research associate at the Center, wrote the report based on new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau. Other major findings include:  

  • Hispanic unemployment increased in the first half of 2003 and the unemployment rate for Latinos peaked at 8.2 percent in June 2003. Concurrently, the proportion of the Hispanic working-age population that is employed trended downwards, reaching a low point of 62.5 percent in July 2003. These outcomes were consistent with trends exhibited since the 2001 recession. 
  • Signs of a reversal in those trends appeared in the second half of 2003, as, for the first time since 2000, the Hispanic unemployment rate showed consistent declines, falling from 8.2 percent in June 2003 to 6.6 percent in December 2003. The proportion of the Hispanic working-age population that is employed also moved up in the latter half of 2003, reaching 63.3 percent in December 2003. 
  • The number of employed Hispanics increased by 659,641 workers from the fourth quarter of 2002 to the fourth quarter of 2003. This increase was more than double the increase in employment in the preceding year. Across the same time frame from 2002 to 2003, the number of employed non-Hispanics increased by 371,066. 
  • For much of 2003, the increase in Hispanic employment was driven by males, immigrants, especially those who entered the U.S. since 2000, and construction jobs. 
  • The number of unemployed Hispanics fell by more than 100,000 between the fourth quarters of 2002 and 2003. However, at least part of the decline in Hispanic unemployment is a consequence of reduced participation in the labor force by Latino workers. The propensity of Hispanics to participate in the labor force is currently at its lowest level since the start of 2000. 
  • Despite gains in employment and reductions in unemployment, the wages of Hispanic workers were stagnant in 2003.

The Pew Hispanic Center is a project of the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. It was founded in 2001 with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Center conducts non-partisan research that aims at improving understanding of the Hispanic population.