June 5, 2008 in Nation/World

Hispanic leaders worried as jobless rates jump

Nicole Gaouette Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON – Unemployment among Hispanics – and particularly Hispanic immigrants – jumped in the past year, wiping out many of their economic gains, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Amid an extended housing and construction slump that has claimed hundreds of thousands of jobs, the Pew findings alarmed Hispanic leaders. They also indicated that aggressive new enforcement raids by immigration officials might be having an effect.

The report shows that unemployment among all Hispanics is higher than the general population. Among Hispanic immigrants it is higher still, and within that group, Mexican immigrants and recent arrivals are suffering some of the largest increases in joblessness.

“It’s striking indeed, especially for foreign workers and the Mexican-born,” said Rakesh Kochhar, associate director for research at the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank.

General unemployment rose to 5 percent in the first quarter of 2008 on a nonadjusted basis. But among Hispanics, it reached 7.3 percent; among Hispanics who are immigrants, 7.5 percent; and among immigrants from Mexico, 8.4 percent. Immigrants who arrived in 2000 or later were hardest hit, with 9.3 percent joblessness.

The jobless gap between Hispanics and non-Hispanics has begun to widen after narrowing to historic lows. At the end of 2006, the gap had narrowed to 0.5 percentage points, with unemployment rates of 4.9 percent for Hispanics and 4.4 percent for non-Hispanics, on a seasonally adjusted basis.

By the beginning of this year, the gap had grown to nearly 2 points, with unemployment rates of 6.5 percent for Hispanics and 4.7 percent for non-Hispanics, on a seasonally adjusted basis. The report is based on the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau.

The increasing gap and rising joblessness worried Hispanic leaders.

“These numbers highlight how much the Latino community is being disproportionately affected by the current economic crisis,” said Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., leader of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “The Latino community not only has to contend with our weakened economy but also with an increasingly negative immigration debate – neither of which brings good news for Latino unemployment rates.”

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