Latino Hiring Outpaces All Others
But they still have farther to go to reach the employment levels enjoyed by non-Hispanic white people.
The rate of employment among Hispanics increased by five percent over the last year, compared with 3.8 percent for Black Americans and 1.4 percent for whites.
An analysis in The New York Times identifies several reasons for the brightening picture for Hispanic workers:
- The Hispanic population trends younger. The numbers reflect the growing number of white baby boomers who are retiring.
- There was a sharp drop in the number of illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican border for several years, during which job opportunities disappeared in the U.S. and got stronger south of the border. Meanwhile, enforcement of border security and work permits has gotten tougher. With less competition, Hispanic workers are finding it easier to get jobs. (About half of the workers identified as Hispanic are U.S.-born.)
More than half of those jobs, about 315,000, went to Hispanics. The construction boom has been concentrated in the states that have a large Hispanic population, including California, Florida, Illinois and Texas.
It should be noted that most of these construction jobs have been at the lower-skilled and lower-paid end of the range for the industry. In any economic cycle, those kinds of jobs disappear fastest but return first.
Construction workers with higher skills are in hot demand. In a recent survey of more than 900 contractors by Associated General Contractors of America, 87 percent said they were having trouble filling key professional and craft worker positions.
The most difficult positions to fill were carpenters, roofers and equipment operators. But construction managers, supervisors and estimators also are needed.
Hispanics as a group continue to have a higher unemployment rate than whites. The latest unemployment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for February, show Hispanic unemployment at 6.6 percent, little changed from 6.7 percent the month before, while unemployment overall fell to 5.5 percent from 5.7 percent.
That puts Hispanic workers back at the employment levels they enjoyed before the recession, but still behind non-Hispanic workers.
Black Americans are the only "major worker group," as defined by the bureau, that is doing worse, with a jobless rate that stands at 10.4 percent.
The two groups have another thing in common: a median wage well below that of the white population. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that the median wage of African Americans was 75 percent of the wage for white people as a group in 2014, while Hispanics were at 70 percent.