The Latino unemployment rate in the United States increased to 7.7 percent last month, despite an increasing number of Hispanics entering the job market. According to the National Council of La Raza, a heavy emphasis shouldn't be placed on the monthly unemployment numbers, since many factors shift each month.

The field coordinator for NCLR's economic policy project, Alicia Criado, told Latin Post the unemployment rate among Hispanics has declined since the 2008 recession. The Hispanic unemployment rate, though, has been at an "elevated rate" compared to the national percentage, although that had also been the case going into the recession, according to Criado.

Despite the Latino unemployment rate increase in May, the NCLR noted 53,000 Latino workers entered the workforce. Criado stated the "numbers are always complex," but one thing to keep in mind is that the labor force's statistics not only include people with a job, but also those who are self-employed and actively looking for employment.

"It's not always a one-to-one kind of thing where you say 'well, anyone that's in the labor force, that means they have a job, and if they left, they don't have a job'," said Criado, adding that there is a "gray area" with the Department of Labor's statistics.

"In previous months, we have seen decreases in the unemployment rate, but some of that was attributed to people who just left the labor force completely," said the field coordinator for NCLR's economic policy project.

Criado also emphasized that year-to-year comparisons are better indications of the unemployment figures than month to month. For instance, May 2013 saw the Latino unemployment rate at 9.1 percent.

For Latinos in particular, who represent 15.6 percent of the overall U.S. workforce, a number of industries are seeing more Latinos enter the job market, such as construction, landscaping, and meatpacking, each of which has a workforce that is over 30 percent Latino. By 2050, 1 in 3 U.S. workers will be Latino. Criado, however, noted it isn't just quantity that's important but the quality of the job.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also revealed more Hispanic women were unemployed than Hispanic men in May, 7.5 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively. Criado stated there might be different factors for the gender unemployment rate gap. She said child care responsibilities may play into the higher female unemployment rate, which increased from April's 6.6 percent. Some jobs for women might not be permanent jobs but part-time or seasonal work. The lack of benefits such as paid sick leave or medical leave may be a burden for women who often have to choose between keeping their job or taking care of family responsibilities.

"One policy that we've been a strong supporter of is access to paid sick leave so that women in particular can fulfill and do responsibilities and not have to choose a false choice," said Criado.

According to Criado, the NCLR, although a national organization, has a network of 300 community-based organizations across 40 states that primarily serve the Latino population. Aspects of the affiliates, such as the Spanish Catholic Center in Washington D.C., provide job training, education skills, and language help for workers. The affiliates help the NCLR's policy development and analysis on the way employers can make connections to employers.

"The reality is that in one hand, we do like to see positive job growth," said Criado, adding that the positive trends — referring to declining unemployment rates prior to May — have been "promising."

"But again, I would emphasize that for us it's not just the quantity but the quality of the job," Criado added. NCLR has been supporting a minimum wage to increase to $10.10.

Criado noted that 2014 is an election year, and urged Latinos who consider the economy and jobs important to make sure to register to vote and know their local representative's stance on the issues.


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