Monthly Latino Employment Report Issued December 7, 2012
Underemployment: The Real Jobs Crisis Looking Beyond Unemployment among Latino and Black Workers Although the national unemployment rate has held steady at 8% in recent months, it has masked the full picture of the nation’s jobs crisis. Today millions of Americans are underemployed, a term used to describe people who are employed but would like more work, are not in the labor force but want and are available to work, or are unemployed, meaning they are actively seeking employment but cannot find a job. While the number of underemployed people has steadily decreased over the past year, data show that underemployment is more concentrated among Latino and Black workers, resulting in less stability for the populations hit hardest by the Great Recession.
Latino Employment Statistics for November 2012 The latest report from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that net job growth was 146,000 and the unemployment rate was 7.7%, a decrease from October when it was 7.9%. The Latino unemployment rate remained unchanged at 10%. The Hispanic labor force participation rate, 66.1%, continues to be the highest of any demographic group. Much of November’s employment growth occurred in retail trade (+53,000 jobs), a sector that largely employs Latino workers.
Factors of Part-Time Employment Latinos and Blacks are more likely to be underemployed. Their underemployment rates are 19% and 23%, respectively. While some underemployed individuals are working, underemployment still threatens a family’s economic security. Specifically, many workers who hold part-time jobs—positions that offer less than 35 hours per week—would prefer full-time employment in order to make enough money to support themselves and their families. These individuals are described as working “involuntary” part-time jobs, in contrast to part-time workers who deliberately seek out part-time work to supplement a breadwinner in the family or because the income from part-time work is sufficient for them. As Table 1 demonstrates, the rate of involuntary part-time employment among Latinos (10.3%) is more twice the rate of Whites (5%) and 2.6 percentage points greater than the rate of Blacks (7.7%).
Table 1. Underemployment by Race and Ethnicity, 2012* Unemployed Involuntary part-time Marginally attached Total underemployed
White 7,488,177 4,829,790 1,392,638 13,710,606
Hispanic 2,628,777.9 2,095,981.4 425,311.1 5,150,070.4
Black 2,714,618.3 1,106,882.6 558,123.2 4,379,624.1
* The pooled data run from November 2011 to October 2012. Source: Economic Policy Institute calculation using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey microdata.
The disparity in underemployment rates—especially due to involuntary part-time work—results in economic disadvantages felt particularly by Hispanic and Black workers. Many part-time jobs do not offer benefits like health insurance, and workers in part-time jobs are less likely to be in unionized positions. Moreover, irregular schedules prevent workers from securing other part1