February 23, 2004

Latino Labor Report, 2003

Latinos experienced substantial gains in the U.S. labor market in 2003 with the number of Hispanics added to the employment rolls twice as high as in 2002 and unemployment easing downward. For the first time since January 2000, Latinos experienced sustained increases in employment that outpaced population growth. The surge in the hiring of Hispanics which began in the second half of 2003 also resulted in employment gains that surpassed the gains of non-Hispanics by several measures. The increase in the number of Latinos employed over the course of the year was nearly double the mark for non-Latinos, suggesting that Latinos took a disproportionate share of new job opportunities.

These are among major conclusions of this report on labor market developments for Hispanics in 2003. The report, examines a variety of trends in employment, wages, differences in job growth, changes since the 2001 recession, and prospects for recovery in 2004. The study shows that although the so-called “jobless recovery” from the 2001 recession seems to have turned around for Latinos overall, the gains were unevenly distributed across the Hispanic population. Immigrant males, especially the most recently arrived, showed by far the greatest increase in employment, and the construction industry alone accounted for more than half of the total Latino job gains. Meanwhile, native-born Hispanics, particularly those of the fast-growing second generation, did not do nearly as well.

Other indicators suggest that the unemployment rate for Latinos may have dropped in part because a large number of discouraged workers have given up trying to find jobs. The propensity of Hispanics to participate in the labor force is found to be at its lowest level since the start of 2000. Also, despite gains in employment and reductions in unemployment, the wages of

Hispanic workers remained stagnant in 2003.