State job creation policies matter for Latinos

By Alicia Criado, Policy Associate, Economic and Employment Policy Project, NCLR

I recently received an email from Vicky, an NCLR supporter, who thanked me for reporting each month on how Latinos are doing in today’s economy.  She also shared that she is unemployed and has come to realize that being bilingual is not enough to help her land a job.  Vicky does not have postsecondary education has found that employers want the whole package in a worker:  adequate training, in-demand skills, and education beyond high school.

Many jobseekers like Vicky are keenly aware of what it takes to stand out in today’s job market, where the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings is more than three to one.  Just over five years from now, in 2018, only 10% of jobs in the U.S. economy will be open to workers with less than a high school degree.  Yet today nearly two out of five (38.4%) Latino adults—and almost half of foreign-born Latino adults (47.5%)—do not have a high school diploma.  These facts are alarming given that by 2050 one in three American workers will be Latino.

It is not clear that the legislators who Vicky and approximately 12 million Latinos helped elect in 2012 understand the needs of the Latino workforce.  According to our latest report, Now Hiring?  Latinos and the Job Creation Policies in the South Atlantic, legislators in South Atlantic states have made plans to create jobs without taking stock of the barriers that the burgeoning Hispanic labor force faces.  State policymakers are paying little to no attention to the intersections of local job creation policies and current state workforce development, immigration, and transportation systems.  Necessary investments in programs like basic skills training, which help Latinos successfully compete for jobs, are often overlooked.  Priority is placed on developing and expanding tax incentives to encourage companies to create jobs and endorsing actions like anti-immigrant legislation that hinder Hispanic workers’ access to employment.  These choices are to the detriment of workers and businesses alike, thus undermining job growth initiatives.

There is a need for significant policy adjustments at the state level to ensure that jobs in the fastest-growing industries are available to Latinos, the fastest-growing segment of workers.  Given the diversity of Latino workers, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work when developing strategies to meet their unique needs.  This is especially true for Latinos in the South Atlantic.  Disproportionate numbers of Hispanics in the region possess limited formal education or English proficiency and largely have inadequate access to language training.  For example, among Latinos over the age of 25 in Georgia, 44.2% have not completed high school and 70.5% have limited English proficiency.  If we look at this same population next door in Florida, we find that just 26.3% do not have a high school diploma and 57.4% speak English less than very well.  Solutions and approaches must be tailored to local needs.

Now more than ever there is a need for policymakers to ensure that Latinos have a seat at the table to inform the job creation agenda at the state level.  The needs and concerns of the Hispanic community should no longer be an afterthought.  The early warning signs uncovered in Now Hiring?  Latinos and the Job Creation Policies in the South Atlantic call for serious policy discussions on how to ensure that jobs are within reach for a broader share of workers and their families.  It is paramount that in this time of limited resources legislators endorse customized policy solutions that benefit employers and cultivate the workforce for years to come.  These discussions can’t wait because our economy won’t work without Latinos.

Read NCLR’s latest study, Now Hiring?  Latinos and the Job Creation Policies in the South Atlantic, to learn more about the barriers that Latinos face in the labor market and why job creation policies are failing to maximize the employment potential of America’s rapidly growing workforce.  For more information, please contact Alicia Criado, Policy Associate at NCLR, at acriado@nclr.org.

We’re a Unified Voice for Communities

By Jesus Altamirano, Regional Field Coordinator, Colorado

Not much can keep our Affiliates down when they band together.

Our Colorado Affiliates know this well. Recently, NCLR Affiliates El Comite de Longmont, Scholar-to-Leader Academy, GOAL Academy, and Mi Casa Resource Center, descended on Denver to speak to U.S. Senators Mark Udall (D) and Michael Bennet (D) about the impact of the impending debt crisis, the so called “fiscal cliff.” Like NCLR, our Colorado Affiliates are concerned about the effects extreme cuts would mean to the millions of American Latino families who rely on vital social services and they expressed just that to their senators.

Kudos to our Colorado Affiliates for being champions for communities! Check out some photos of their advocacy below and then tell us what the impending fiscal cliff crisis could mean to you.

Colorado advocates in their meeting Colorado advocates outside the meeting Colorado advocates in their meeting

We Can Avoid the “Fiscal Cliff” Without Turning Our Backs on Our Most Vulnerable

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

Janet_MurguiaLike most voters, Latinos cited jobs and the economy as their greatest concern in the days leading up to the election .  The pressing importance of these issues led to an historic turnout of Hispanic voters in the 2012 election and overwhelming support for President Obama’s reelection.  In the post-election period, Latinos are looking to our nation’s leadership to pursue policies that spur economic growth and keep us on the path to recovery.  That progress, however, will be in jeopardy if our nation falls off the dreaded fiscal cliff on January 2, 2013, the day that deep spending cuts automatically go into effect and middle-class tax cuts expire.  Most economists agree that if a compromise is not reached before then, we are more than likely to experience a double-dip recession, slower growth, and rising unemployment.

Latinos have a great deal at stake in the debate over the fiscal cliff.  Not only are Hispanics a growing share of the electorate that will continue to amplify its voice in the political process, they are an increasingly vital force in our economy.  Latino children make up almost one out of four students enrolled in America’s public schools.  And Hispanics will account for 80% of the growth in the workforce between now and 2050.   This means that investing in those future workers today will have an indelible impact on the strength and competiveness of our nation’s economy.

I recently attended a meeting with President Obama and my fellow national civil rights leaders to discuss the fiscal cliff.  We presented a unified message on behalf of those who work for minority communities:  we need to protect the most vulnerable among us in this process, and we should not raise taxes on working and middle-class families.  Balancing the budget on the backs of these people will only widen the opportunity gap that already exists.

Recent surveys show that Latinos support a balanced, fair, and shared approach to deficit reduction.  In an impreMedia/Latino Decisions poll , nearly half of Hispanic voters supported both revenue generation and targeted spending cuts.

The impact of the fiscal cliff would be felt immediately.  It is estimated that over two million Americans will lose unemployment benefits and the average middle-class family would see an increase of approximately $2,000 in taxes.  For Latinos, who face a higher unemployment rate (10%) than the national average, suffered disproportionately from the foreclosure crisis , and are especially vulnerable to the effects of the fiscal cliff, the struggle to stay afloat will become unbearable.

Latinos want the president to keep his commitment to fostering a fair economy.  That means we do not turn our backs on the sick and the hungry.  Rather, we must continue to nurture the social contract that has existed through the generations by making long-term investments that will shape a stable and growing economy.  Cutting those investments is near-sighted and will shortchange not only our community but the long-term prosperity of our entire nation.

Our nation has a long and proud history of fostering opportunities to join and maintain the ranks of the middle class.  We must maintain this tradition if we want to honor those core values that have helped pave opportunities for America’s Latinos.