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Latino joblessness down . . . for now

Dan Grech Sep 27, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Amy Scott mentioned a couple of minutes ago new home sales are up. But new home construction has been slowing, especially in places like Florida and California. And that made a Pew Hispanic Center study out today all the more interesting. It found unemployment among Latinos is at historic lows — 5.2 percent in the second quarter. But with the building trades slowing down, the third quarter and beyond look kind of shaky. From the Marketplace Americas Desk at WLRN, Dan Grech reports.

DAN GRECH: The Pew Hispanic Center found that nearly 500,000 Latinos landed jobs in construction over the past two years. Hard hats account for one in every two new jobs Latinos have found since 2005.That means the slowdown in new construction could hit Hispanics particularly hard. Economist Rakesh Kocchar authored the Pew study.

RAKESH KOCCHAR:“The circle will come back in some sense to Hispanic workers, and their recent gains may be lost.”

If Latinos can’t find construction jobs, what do they do next? Some may return to their native countries. Others may go on welfare. One expert bets many will find jobs in new industries.

BEN JOHNSON:“When one door closes, another door certainly will open. What that new door will be is always very hard to predict.”

That’s Ben Johnson, director of the Immigration Policy Center.

JOHNSON:“That population, the Hispanic community in the United States, will end up relying on some of the skills that they had back in Mexico. They’ll try to figure out how to make them work in the United States.”

A few industries have started to see more Hispanics. More are getting jobs as teachers in public schools where their language skills are needed. They’re also taking jobs caring for the elderly.

In Miami, I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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