Labor Day Spotlight: Young Latinos Want Better Career Opportunities, but Face High Unemployment

Five years after the Great Recession, employment prospects are better than they were during the crisis, but there are still millions of people in the United States looking for stable, full-time work. Like other communities of color, Latinos bore the brunt of the economic downturn and haven’t fully recovered yet. The unemployment rate for Hispanics, one of the fastest-growing and youngest segments of the U.S. workforce, hoversNILSL_Feb14_blogpic_latinostudents at around 8%, higher than the national average. Latino workers, especially those without a college education, are also heavily clustered in industries with low-paying jobs. Unfortunately, age can often compound those challenges, making the job hunt even tougher for young men and women of color in the millennial generation.

Overall, millennials—young adults between ages 16 and 30—are struggling more than other groups to find work. With less experience under their belts, young men and women are at a disadvantage compared to more seasoned candidates and therefore face much higher rates of unemployment. Earlier this year, NCLR released a report, Giving Them an Edge? The Effects of Work Experience on the Employment Prospects of Latino Young Men, which showed that even within the millennial generation, significant disparities exist between the unemployment rates of young men and women of color and their White peers.

Millennial Unemployment Rates by Age and Race/Ethnicity, 2012

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Latino Black White
Age Male Female Male Female Male Female
16–19 34% 31% 49% 43% 24% 20%
20–25 15% 16% 29% 25% 13% 10%
26–30 10% 12% 21% 19% 8% 7%

Source: NCLR calculations based on the 2012 American Community Survey, one-year sample.

To gain a better overall perspective on the job market for young Latino men and women, NCLR has also been reaching out to both employers and jobseekers. Large-scale employers in our network are weighing in on what they value in younger employees. The most important qualities include an openness to learn, a knack for technology, and a high value for corporate social responsibility. On the jobseeker side, younger Latino workers have shared their experiences and concerns with NCLR regarding their employment prospects through multiple polls and surveys conducted over the past few months.

In more encouraging news, a survey of registered Latinos released at the 2014 NCLR Annual Conference showed that respondents in the 18–39 age bracket were generally more positive about the overall economic outlook of the country, with 65% reporting that they believe the economy has gotten better over the past five years and close to half saying that their personal finances have improved. However, that positivity didn’t necessarily extend to their employment outlook. Just under half of respondents noted that they were either worried about someone in their household losing his or her job or were already unemployed, and more than 75% said that they were very concerned about career advancement opportunities.

Job quality is also an important issue for millennials. Last week, through our mobile network, NCLR conducted a survey of about 250 Latinos, ages 16–30, asking them whether they’d rather make $40,000 a year working at a job they love than make $100,000 working at a job they think is boring. More than 60% agreed that they’d rather work at a job that they love. That isn’t to say that Latino millennials are content working for lower wages. In a separate question, more than 85% of participants said that they would be more likely to vote for an elected official who voted to raise the minimum wage. Latinos represent only 15% of the workforce, yet comprise approximately 24% (6.8 million) of the 27.8 million workers who would benefit from boosting the minimum wage to $10.10.

This Labor Day weekend, NCLR wants to hear from you. If you missed our text survey, comment on social media to weigh in on our poll questions! While you’re there, let us know what you think could be done to help secure better opportunities and quality jobs for young Latino men and women.