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A Look at the Hispanic and Latino Labor Force in the U.S.

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a statistics spotlight on the Hispanic labor force in the U.S. Among other things, the article examined labor force participation, unemployment rates, education, country of birth, and employment projections. What it uncovered was a portrait of a growing and increasingly influential section of the population, as well as a clearer picture of the challenges facing Hispanics and Latinos in today's employment environment.

Unemployment

First and foremost on everyone's mind these days, unemployment rates in 2010 were higher for Hispanic workers (12.5 percent) than white workers (8.7 percent) and Asian workers (7.5 percent), but somewhat lower than unemployment rates for black workers (16 percent). This is consistently true even before the recession, but the gap widened somewhat in 2008, at the heart of the recession. Unemployment among Hispanic teenagers was higher than any other group -- at 32.2 percent, it was almost double the unemployment rate for that segment in 2006.

Hispanic women of all age groups tended to have a lower participation rate -- in other words, the number of people employed or actively seeking work -- in the labor force than Hispanic men, with women between the ages of 25 and 34 showing the greatest gap (65 percent participation as opposed to 92 percent.)

Earnings and Industry

Median weekly earnings for Hispanics in all age groups were lower ($549) than those of blacks ($615), whites ($775), or Asians ($866). The top industries for Hispanic Americans were Education and Health Services, Wholesale and Retail Trade, and Leisure and Hospitality.

Geographic Location

Currently, New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanic workers (42 percent of the labor force in 2011) and New Hampshire has the lowest (just 2 percent that same year.)

Education

16 percent of the Hispanic labor force had college degrees in 2011, as opposed to 12 percent in 1992; 31 percent of Hispanic workers hadn't graduated from high school in 2011, as compared with 39 percent in 1992.

The Future

"The Hispanic labor force has grown significantly in recent decades -- increasing from 9 million in 1988 to 23 million in 2011," the spotlight's authors write. This number is expected 30.5 million by 2020.

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(Photo Credit: Ray_from_LA/Flickr)

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