News Column

Gap Between Hispanic, Overall Inland Unemployment Narrowing

July 9, 2012

David Olson

Inland Latinos are gaining jobs at a faster rate than non-Hispanics, a new report indicates.

The study by the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute shows that Inland Latinos still have a higher unemployment rate than non-Hispanics. But the gap narrowed in 2011.

The unemployment rate for Hispanics in Riverside and San Bernardino counties dropped from 18.1 percent in 2010 to 15.4 percent in 2011, the study found. The overall rate fell from 14.3 percent to 13.4 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Hispanic unemployment rate

"I'm seeing more and more clients say they're going back to work," said Emilio Amaya, executive director of the San Bernardino Community Service Center, an immigrant-assistance agency that primarily serves Latinos. "But it's still not enough. There are still a lot of people without jobs."

Amaya said among the most common jobs that Inland Latinos are taking are low-pay positions in manufacturing and warehousing.

Others are accepting minimum-wage jobs at fast-food restaurants, grocery stores and temp agencies, said Luz Gallegos, community programs director at TODEC Legal Center in Perris, which serves immigrants.

Before the economic downturn, some had been earning more than $20 an hour at Inland factories, including the now-closed National RV Holdings Inc. plant in Perris, she said. The recreational vehicle manufacturer closed in late 2007, eliminating 600 jobs.

As jobless residents' unemployment benefits begin to run out, they give up hope of finding a well-paying job, Gallegos said.

"Now they have to settle for less," she said.

Manuel Villalobos illustrates that trend.

Villalobos, 63, of Perris, began work at a Perris recycling center on Friday, July 6, after spending five years without a job.

He was making $11.50 an hour before he was laid off in 2007 from a Temecula window and door factory. His new job pays $9 an hour.

"With the economy the way it is, they pay what they want," Villalobos said in Spanish.

Villalobos, a legal resident in the process of becoming a citizen, first relied on unemployment insurance to pay the bills. After that ran out, he applied for Social Security benefits.

But that wasn't enough to support himself, his wife and his now-24-year-old son, who still is out of work. Before Villalobos got his new job, he was selling $2 and $5 packets of peanuts on the streets of Perris.

The Economic Policy Institute study compared 25 U.S. metropolitan areas that have large Latino populations, using an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2010 and 2011. The institute, which focuses on issues that affect low- and middle-income people, receives most of its funding from foundations and labor unions.

Even with the drop in Inland Hispanic unemployment, the region had the third-highest Latino jobless rate among the 25 metro areas, reflecting an overall unemployment rate that remains among the nation's highest.

Nationally, unemployment among Latinos is falling at roughly the same rate as unemployment among the overall population, according to a comparison of the institute's study with annual Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

But in the Inland area, the jobless level is declining at more than twice the rate for Latinos as it is for the overall population.

One reason may be that Hispanics in the Inland region are more likely to be U.S.-born than Latinos in the nation as a whole, said Todd Sorensen, an assistant professor of economics at UC Riverside. About two-thirds of Inland Latinos were born in the United States.

Immigrants are less likely to have the educational, job and English-language skills that employers seek, he said.

Immigrants also are more likely than native-born residents to move elsewhere in the country to look for work, meaning that some may have fallen off of the list of the Inland unemployed, said Amon Emeka, an assistant professor of sociology at USC.

Other Latinos not reflected in the statistics are those so discouraged that they no longer are looking for work, Emeka said.



Source: (c)2012 The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.)


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