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That Falling Tide Does Not Recede Evenly

We predicted that Hispanics would feel more pain jobwise this recession than some other demographic groups. We were right.
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The continuing hemorrhage in Hispanic employment in the United States continues to gush, something researchers quoted by our Lewis Beale last November predicted. Of course, every demographic group is hurting right now — a falling tide lowers all boats, you could say — but Hispanic workers seem to be moored in the Bay of Fundy.

In the spring of 2008, the rate of Hispanic employment was greater for Hispanics than for whites, who traditionally have the lowest jobless rate. A year later, Hispanics had fallen behind white employment rates. And now, in California, Hispanic unemployment exceeds that of African Americans, who traditionally have the highest jobless rate.

Writing about a study, "Examination and Comparison of Hispanic and White Unemployment Rates," published last year in the Journal of Business Valuation and Economic Loss Analysis, Beale wrote, "The study also found that Hispanics lose employment sooner in an economic downturn, have to deal with longer periods of unemployment and face what the paper calls a 'riskier' labor market than whites, meaning they have to deal with a higher probability of being unemployed and greater job instability."

A new issue brief from the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank with a focus on the working poor, analyzes Bureau of Labor Statistics quarterly data and projections by Moody's and paints the picture predicted. The brief also projects that things will get worse for those two populations.

"Nationally, black unemployment is expected to reach 16 percent, the Hispanic rate 13.3 percent, and the white rate 8.6 percent — up from 14.7 percent, 12.2 percent, and 7.8 percent, respectively, in the quarter that ended on June 30," EPI's Algernon Austin reported. "... Increasing joblessness will continue to plague the nation as a whole into 2010, and its effects will be disproportionately borne by blacks and Hispanics. In 14 states and the District of Columbia, the black unemployment rate will exceed 15 percent; Hispanic unemployment will pass 15 percent in California and Nevada. After the peak, it will also take years before unemployment rates return to their typical levels."

In California, EPI found Hispanic unemployment at 1.8 times the white rate, while in Alabama, Louisiana, New York, Texas and Virginia, African-American unemployment was twice the white rate.

"It is clear that the country is in a very deep recession," Austin concludes. "However, not all states are suffering equally, and not all racial and ethnic groups are experiencing the same degree of economic hardship. In developing policies to address the economic crisis, the nation should devote extra resources to those states and groups that are hardest hit."

Hispanics have a particular stake in the construction industry, and Ivy Chang, editor of Construction Bulletin magazine, reports that the boffins at Reed Construction Data say the federal stimulus looks likes it's helping — but you can't prove it. Plus, falling residential construction and credit stickiness will keep construction in a funk for a while. "The stimulus package will help the construction industry to a degree, [Ken Simonson, chief economist for AGC of America] said, but not enough to offset the downturn in residential construction."

EPI President Lawrence Mishel, for one, lauds the efforts of the stimulus package — that's the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to you — but wants more, including a strengthened social safety net (i.e. public aid), more general assistance money flowing from Washington to the states, and targeted employment programs.

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