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The growing presence of Hispanics in the U.S. work force.

Between 1980 and 1987 the number of Hispanic workers rose dramatically, accounting for almost a fifth of the Nation's employment growth; the increase for Hispanic women was especially sharp

One of the outstanding features of the employment expansion during the 1980's has been the rapid growth of Hispanics in the U.S. Labor market. This growth has been fueled by a large inflow of Hispanics from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Civil wars, economic problems, and poverty in some of these areas have induced large numbers of workers to migrate to the United States in search of jobs and better opportunities. Combined with the number of Hispanics currently living here, the continuing large inflow has made them the Nation's fastest growing Labor force group. Thus, while the non-Hispanic work force rose by 10.4 percent between 1980 and 1987, the number of Hispanic workers increased by 39 percent, reaching 8.5 million in 1987.

In recent years, procedures have been developed which are designed to improve Hispanic population estimates from the Current Population Survey (cps), the main source of the data in this report. This article is based on these revised data.

Although Hispanics made up slightly under 7 percent of total employment, they accounted for almost a fifth of the total increase in the Nation's jobs between 1980 and 1987. In all, Hispanic employment increased by 2.3 million during the period covered. (See table 1.) MexicanAmericans -by far the largest group of Hispanics -were also the fastest-growing group; their employment total rose by nearly 50 percent over the 1980-87 period, as shown in the following tabulation.

The rate of Hispanic employment growth has been particularly impressive following the onset of the current expansion. Since 1983, Hispanic employment has increased by 28 percent, almost three times the rate for other workers. This resulted from the surge in the Hispanic population noted earlier. To a lesser extent, the sharper pace of Hispanic employment growth also resulted from somewhat greater increases in the percentage of this population that is employed-the employmentpopulation ratio. As shown in the following tabulation, the ratio for Hispanics rose in spurts-by about 5 1/2 percentage points between 1983 and 1987, compared with 3 1/2 points for non-Hispanics. Also, the ratio had declined more sharply for Hispanics than for non-Hispanics between 1980 and 1982, a period punctuated by two recessions.

For both groups, much of the post-recession increase in employment-population ratios restored recession-induced declines. However, despite the greater increase in the ratio for Hispanics since 1983, the proportion of those who are employed continues to be below that for other workers.

The dramatic increase in Hispanic employment is expected to continue for many years. According to BLS projections, the Hispanic civilian Labor force will grow by 74 percent between 1986 and the end of the century, outdistancing other Labor force subgroups. Projections indicate that by the year 2000, Hispanics will make up 10 percent of the Nation's Labor force, up from 7 percent in 1986. This is expected to occur because of continued sharp population growth as well as increases in the percent of Hispanics in the work force.

Employment growth by sex

Women. The continued sharp growth in employment among all women in this country has been well documented. Hispanic women have shown the most rapid gains. Paced by sharp population growth, their employment levels have shown an increase of almost 50 percent since 1980, about 2 1/2 times the rate for other women. (See table 2.) In addition, the proportion of Hispanic women who were employed has increased faster than that of nonHispanic women since 1983. As indicated in the following tabulation, employment-population ratios for Hispanic women rebounded from a low of 41 percent in 1983, rising to more than 47 percent in 1987. Hispanic women have historically been less likely to be employed than other women, and their employment-population ratio is still relatively low.

Some analysts emphasize cultural differences in sexrole attitudes to explain why Hispanic women have traditionally had lower likelihoods of employment. 5 In an empirical examination of this view, Vilma Ortiz and Rosemary Santana Cooney find that differences in educational attainments are more important determinants of ethnic differences in Labor force participation than traditional attitudes toward women's role in the Labor force. Data from the March 1987 cps confirm that ethnic differences in educational attainment need to be taken into account. As the following tabulation shows, Hispanic women 25 years and older are much less likely than other women to complete high school-a major determinant of employability. Indeed, among women with similar levels of schooling, Hispanics are more likely to work than their counterparts.

Men. Although the rate of job growth for Hispanic men during the 1980's was somewhat less than that of Hispanic women, it was sharply higher than that of nonHispanic men. Even during the 1981 - 8 3 period when the employment of non-Hispanic men declined, employment of Hispanic men rose moderately, solely on the strength of population growth.

As the following tabulation shows, the trends in employment-population ratios between 1980 and 1987 have been similar for both Hispanic and non-Hispanic men. The percentages employed declined during the recessionary period of the early 1980's, but ratios for both groups continued to rise during the subsequent 5 years, as the upturn in the business cycle provided increased employment opportunities. To a lesser extent, demographics also may have been a factor behind the increase in proportions working. For example, during the past 5 years, a portion of the baby boom generation entered age categories with higher rates of Labor force participation.

The rise in the employment-population ratios of all working-age men during the most recent expansionary period occurred during a long-term decline. For more than 30 years, their employment-population ratio has been declining slowly but steadily, primarily because of earlier retirement among older men. In 1987, the ratio was 10 percentage points below those which prevailed in the late 1940's. Thus, the recent rise in the ratios for men only represents a retum to 1980 rates and not a reversal of the secular trend.

The employment-population ratio for Hispanic men in 1987 was 74 percent, almost 3 points higher than for nonHispanic men. As shown below, this is due, in part, to the fact that two-thirds of all working-age Hispanic men are 20 to 44 years old and are thus more concentrated than non-Hispanics in the age categories where Labor force participation is at its highest.

The ratios for Hispanic men were higher than those of non-Hispanic men for two age groups: 20- to 24-year-olds and those age 45 and older. The ethnic differential for the younger age group may be due to the higher likelihood of enrollment of non-Hispanics in college, while the differen


Because much of the sharp rise in Hispanic employment since 1983 was accompanied by an increase in the Labor force, the decline in the level and rate of unemployment among Hispanics was in line with that of the rest of the work force over the 1983-87 economic expansion. (See table 3.) Thus, at 8.8 percent in 1987, the Hispanic unemployment rate remained about 1 1/2 times higher than that of the remainder of the population, a ratio that has been remarkably constant throughout the decade. However, the Hispanic rate was below that of black workers, who continue to have the highest jobless rate of any race or ethnic group .

Reasons for the high rates among Hispanics include their relatively low levels of educational attainment; the large numbers who have immigrated to the United States in recent years, and thus their greater likelihood of being Labor market entrants; and their concentrations in job categories which are especially vulnerable to business cycle downturns." Among the individual Hispanic ethnic groups, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans had the highest jobless rates in 1987 -about 10 percent-while the Cuban rate was about 5 percent. Employment patterns by occupation, 1983 - 87

Although Hispanic men and women have had some degree of occupational upgrading during the decade, they are still somewhat more likely than the overall work force to be employed in lower skilled, lower paid occupations." As expected, most of the increase in the employment of Hispanic women occurred in mid-level occupations where Hispanic women are predominantly employed-technical, sales, and administrative support-and the generally lower paid service occupations, which together account for three-fifths of the employment of Hispanic women. Another 22 percent of the gain was in higher paid jobs as managers and professionals- who accounted for only 15 percent of Hispanic women's employment. (See table 4.) In contrast, almost half of the increase in the employment of non-Hispanic women was accounted for by managerial and professional positions, where one fourth of non-Hispanic women are employed. Jobs for both groups of women continue to be concentrated in the technical, sales, and administrative support category.

The occupational improvement among Hispanic men was not as marked. Job growth for Hispanic men was concentrated in occupations requiring intermediate skills-operators, fabricators, and laborers-which accounted for nearly a third of their employment. In contrast, job growth for non-Hispanic men -like that for women-was concentrated in managerial and professional positions, which accounted for more than one fourth of their employment.

Reflecting their concentration in occupations requiring lower levels of training and formal education, Hispanic wage and salary workers employed full time typically earned less than their non-Hispanic counterparts. Hispanic workers averaged $284 a week in 1987, about three-fourths the earnings of all full-time wage and salary workers.
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Author:Cattan, Peter
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Aug 1, 1988
Previous Article:Measuring the cost and incidence of employee benefits.
Next Article:Employment and unemployment in the first half of 1988.

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