“Immigrants No Longer the Majority of Hispanic Workers
For the first time in nearly two decades, immigrants do not account for the majority of Hispanic workers in the United States. Meanwhile, most of the job gains made by Hispanics during the economic recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-09 have gone to U.S.-born workers, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data.
In 2013, 49.7% of the more than 22 million employed Latinos were immigrants. This share was down sharply from the pre-recession peak of 56.1% in 2007. Although Latinos have gained 2.8 million jobs since the recession ended in 2009, only 453,000 of those went to immigrants. Moreover, all of the increase in employment for Latino immigrants happened in the first two years of the recovery, from 2009 to 2011. Since then, from 2011 to 2013, the employment of Latino immigrants is unchanged.
This development is mostly due to the waning inflow of Hispanic immigrants. The Great Recession, a tepid jobs recovery, tighter border controls and more deportations have served to mitigate migration to the U.S. from Latin America, especially Mexico, in recent years.1 Since the recession started in December 2007, the growth in the Latino immigrant workforce (people ages 16 and older) has slowed dramatically even as the Latino U.S.-born workforce continues to expand at a rapid pace.
The diminished role of Latino immigrants is in stark contrast to trends prior to the Great Recession, and the boom and bust in the U.S. housing market is a key factor. From 2004 to 2007, during the height of the construction boom, immigrant Latinos gained 1.6 million jobs, two times the 829,000 new jobs secured by U.S.-born Latinos.2 During the recession, the construction sector alone let go of 520,000 Latino immigrants, with foreign-born Latinos losing 340,000 jobs overall.3 None of the construction jobs have come back for immigrants. Among foreign-born Latinos, the share working in construction fell from 19% in 2007 to 15% in 2009 and has stayed at about that level.
It is likely that the share of the Latino workforce that is U.S. born will continue to increase. The U.S. born currently account for most of the growth in the Latino population, and it is uncertain that Latino migrants will return to the U.S. workforce in larger numbers. Some leading economists are of the view that the U.S. has entered a new era of slower economic growth.4 If so, jobs growth in the future may not be strong enough to reinvigorate immigration from Latin America. The future direction of U.S. immigration policy is also unknown. Finally, demographers have noted that sharp declines in birth rates in Mexico and other Latin American countries may ease the pressure to emigrate to the U.S. in the longer run.5
Although the inflow of Hispanic immigrants into the U.S. labor market has diminished since the start of the Great Recession, the role of immigrants overall continues to expand. The baton is now in the hands of non-Hispanic migrants, whose inflow—less driven by unauthorized inflows and less dependent on construction sector jobs—is unaffected by the recession. From the fourth quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2013, the working-age population of Hispanic immigrants increased by only 382,000, while that of non-Hispanic immigrants increased by 2.3 million. The growth was sufficient to increase the share of all immigrants in U.S. employment from 15.8% in 2009 to 16.5% in 2013.
The Jobs Recovery for Hispanics Is Driven by Demographics
Latinos overall have more than made up for the jobs they lost during the recession in terms of numbers, though not necessarily in the share that are employed. That is because jobs growth for Hispanics is just keeping pace with the growth in their working-age population.
Overall, Hispanics secured 2.8 million new jobs from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2013, well in excess of the 378,000 jobs lost during the recession. The growth in Hispanic employment accounted for 43.4% of the total jobs growth of 6.4 million in the U.S. economy from 2009 to 2013. That was similar to the contribution of Latinos (43.6%) to the growth in the U.S. working-age population over the time period.
Meanwhile, U.S.-born Hispanics gained 2.3 million jobs in the recovery, compared with a loss of 37,000 jobs in the recession. For Hispanic immigrants, the 453,000 jobs gained in the recovery are not notably greater than the 340,000 jobs lost in the recession.
But the seemingly strong recovery for Hispanics is more about demographics than good economic fortune. Because jobs growth and population growth are proceeding at similar rates, the proportion of Hispanics with jobs barely edged up in the recovery, from 59% at the end of 2009 to 60% at the end of 2013. The share employed in 2013 is still less than the 64.3% share employed at the start of the recession.
The Latino unemployment rate decreased during the recovery, falling to 8.8% in the fourth quarter of 2013 from 12.7% in the fourth quarter of 2009. But some of this decrease is likely due to discouraged workers leaving the workforce and therefore no longer being counted as unemployed. Moreover, the unemployment rate for Hispanics remains greater than the 5.9% it was at the start of the recession in the fourth quarter of 2007. Even more progress is to be made before the Hispanic unemployment rate matches its historic low of 5% reached in the fourth quarter of 2006.
The unemployment rates for both U.S.-born and immigrant Latinos are still higher than their levels in 2007. For U.S.-born Latinos, the unemployment rate increased from 6.8% in the fourth quarter of 2007 to 13.8% in the fourth quarter of 2009, and it retreated only to 10.3% by the fourth quarter of 2013. The unemployment rate for Latino immigrants increased from 5.2% in 2007 to 11.8% to 2009, and it had fallen to 7.2% by the end of 2013.
Jobs Growth for Hispanics Is Concentrated in Traditional Industries
Most of the job growth in the recovery for Hispanics has come from industries in which they are traditionally concentrated. About half of Hispanic workers are employed in just four industries—construction; eating, drinking and lodging services; wholesale and retail trade; and professional and other business services. These four industries were also at the center of employment change for Hispanics during the recession and the recovery.
In the construction sector, Hispanics lost 686,000 jobs during the recession and regained only 74,000 of those jobs in the recovery. However, in the other three industries—eating, drinking and lodging services; wholesale and retail trade; and professional and other business services—Hispanics gained jobs during both the recession (236,000 in the three industries combined) and the recovery (1.3 million). These three industries accounted for 45.5% of the jobs growth for Hispanics from 2009 to 2013.
Changes in Earnings Among Hispanics
The earnings of Hispanic workers have risen modestly since 2007. For full-time Hispanic workers, the median weekly wage in the fourth quarter of 2013 was $570, compared with $556 in the fourth quarter of 2007 (in fourth-quarter 2013 dollars), an increase of 2.5%.
But the estimated increase in earnings for all full-time Hispanic workers is a misleading indicator of economic gain. Considered separately, the median weekly earnings of U.S.-born Hispanics working full time fell from $684 in 2007 to $640 in 2013, a loss of 6.4%. Meanwhile, the earnings of foreign-born Hispanics working full time were unchanged at about $500.
So why did wages for Hispanics overall increase from 2007 to 2013 if neither U.S.-born nor foreign-born Hispanics experienced an increase? The answer lies in the changing composition of the Latino workforce. Because Hispanic immigrants earn less than U.S.-born Hispanics, their retreat from the U.S. workforce raises the estimated earnings of Latinos overall.
This report focuses on employment, unemployment and earnings among Hispanics and non-Hispanics, both U.S. born and foreign born, during the Great Recession and the economic recovery. The report also describes labor market outcomes for whites, blacks and Asians, and it analyzes the sources of jobs growth by industry for the different groups of workers. The recession is defined as the two-year period from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2009.6 The recovery is the four-year period from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2013. An update on labor market trends through the first quarter of 2014 is provided below.”