Over the last two reporting months, the U.S. Department of Labor produced solid numbers, particularly for October, when the economy added 298,000 non-farm jobs. The tally more than doubled the results of the prior month, setting the stage for the Federal Reserve to raise its much promised interest rate target. Although November’s total of 211,000 was off from a percentage basis, it met analysts’ expectations and further bolstered the Fed’s probability of shifting to a hawkish monetary policy.
It’s hard to state that, from a contextual basis, these results are positive. In November of last year, the economy added more than twice as many jobs, yet the Fed still felt at the time that more work needed to be done — no pun intended. But for the sake of argument, let’s agree that the mainstream is optimistic about future prospects. Clearly, all boats have been lifted — except one very conspicuous exception.
Hispanics — which according to the L.A. Times is the second-largest minority group in the U.S. at 17% of the population — have seen their unemployment rate decline only marginally compared to Whites, Blacks, and Asians. Year-over-year, the latter three categories saw an average -15% year-over-year decline in unemployment rate, with Asians leading the pack at -17%. In contrast, Hispanics saw a decline in unemployment of only -3%.
The magnitude of difference, or spread, between Hispanics and the other racial categories is enormous — a whopping 400%! Within the non-Hispanic groups, the spread between the most improved unemployment rate and the least improved is 39%. This is more than just a mere anomaly. Hispanics have averaged a very linear unemployment rate, whereas non-Hispanics have all seen a sharp drop.
Statistics would suggest that the lack of improvement in job prospects for Hispanics is nothing of their own doing. In nominal terms, they are currently ranked number three at 6.4% unemployed, whereas Blacks rank a distant fourth at 9.4%. The linearity seen in Hispanic job growth tells us that structurally, there are not many opportunities for them to advantage.
Typically, Hispanic labor is over-represented in low skill or manual industries. To some extent, this explains why Hispanics — who are under-represented in higher education as compared to Whites and Asians — are finding it difficult to compete in a high-tech world. But that in and of itself is not the entire story.
There will always be a need for manual labor. As industries grow, maintenance services such as custodial work or sanitation will likewise increase. Whites are loathe to take such jobs, and hard-working, family-oriented Hispanics will often grab these opportunities. But without top-line growth, this “bottom-line” growth will not trickle over. The lack of job growth among Hispanics indirectly state that the U.S. is building a house without a foundation.
And that condition has a very low probability of success.