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Hispanic workers stay in U.S. despite job losses

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Hispanic workers are sticking with the U.S. job market instead of returning to their countries of origin despite a suffering economy and current job losses, according to The Wall Street Journal. Most job losses for Hispanic workers during the past year were a result of a slowdown in construction, which is a main source of jobs for Hispanic workers—especially immigrants.

During the first quarter of 2008, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate among Hispanics was 6.5 percent compared with a 4.7 percent rate for non-Hispanics.

"The economic slowdown led by a single industry has affected the one group of workers who had benefited most from the construction boom," says Rakesh Kochhar, an economist at Pew Hispanic Center, a research organization that reported the statistics.

Independent researchers and industry observers believe the proportion of Hispanics in the construction industry is significantly higher than the reported 26 percent of 7 million construction workers because many immigrant workers are hired off the books. Undocumented immigrant workers have been especially affected by job losses because of federal government enforcement of immigration rules. The nonseasonally adjusted unemployment rate for foreign-born Hispanics, many of whom are undocumented, jumped from 5.5 percent in the first quarter of 2007 to 7.5 percent in the first quarter of 2008; for native-born Hispanics, the rate increased from 6.7 percent in 2007 to 6.9 percent in 2008.

In addition, this is the fist time since 2003 that more foreign-born than native-born Hispanics were unemployed. About 20 percent of foreign-born Hispanics are employed in construction compared with 8 percent of native-born Hispanics.

However, labor-force participation among foreign-born Hispanics has been unchanged during the past few years, remaining at 70 percent from the first quarter of 2006 through the first quarter of 2008. This indicates they are choosing to stay in the U.S. instead of returning to their countries of origin.

"There is a resiliency in this work force; the immigrants remain active—either on the job or looking for a job," says Kochhar. "Because they are foreign-born, they don’t have access to social safety nets."


6/9/2008

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