‘Astronomical’ Unemployment Among Latinos Due to Coronavirus
In a crisis never seen since the Great Depression, the Hispanic community takes the worst hit.
With an unemployment rate of 19%, Latinos in the United States now face one of the worst scenarios in their history.
According to figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, after the economy shut down during the Coronavirus pandemic, about four million Hispanics in the country have been left without jobs, that is, one out of every five Latinos has had to file for unemployment.
Following the government's declaration of a health emergency, and despite slow social distancing and quarantine measures, the report explains that the significant decline in jobs nationwide began in March with a drop in payroll by 881,000.
Job losses accelerated in April, with 20.5 million additional jobs in all industry sectors, but with a predominant impact on non-agricultural employment that reached "its lowest level since January 2011.”
Among the industries most affected is the hotel and leisure industry with a loss of 7.7 million jobs; 2.5 million in education and health services, 2.1 in the retail sector, and around 975,000 jobs in construction.
According to figures from the same department, by 2019, Latinos represented about 20% of the workforce in these industries.
Despite the significant development that our community has seen in recent years –among a historical low of unemployment, increased acquisition of goods, and increased incorporation into educational centers– the Coronavirus crisis has dealt a mortal blow to this growth.
In a country suffering from its highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression, and where inequality slows the development of demographics such as Hispanic and African-American, recovery is now a matter of decades.
History has taught us that after this kind of crisis, Latinos and immigrants are often the communities that suffer the most economic losses and take the longest to recover, Manuel Orozco, director of the Inter-American Dialogue and also a senior researcher at the Center for International Development at Harvard University, told NPR.
"Migrants are not only the first ones to lose their job but will be the last ones to regain it," he said.
Especially when it comes to undocumented immigrants, who do not have access to federal aid and who are now deterred from applying for benefits for fear that it will hinder their naturalization process.
Among farmworkers who have put their lives in danger by not leaving their posts in the fields, cashiers, delivery boys, and domestic workers, Latinos seem to be living between a rock and a hard place, having to choose between getting sick or losing their livelihood.
“We represent about 18% of the population nationwide, yet 27% of the deaths,” Texas Democratic Representative Veronica Escobar told NPR. "So Latinos are really bearing a significant burden."
"Latinos are predominantly facing two major challenges," she added. “And for one, we're sicker and we're poorer. We're sicker because we have underlying health conditions and comorbidities that make us more vulnerable. And we are poorer, and we have less access to health care, health insurance, preventative health care. Those are two major things that obviously we can't fix overnight during a pandemic.”
According to a report published by the social justice organization Mijente with the Labor Council for the Advancement of Latin America, the figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics could be even higher.
In their report, "The Impact of COVID-19 on Latinos in the U.S.," the organizations explained that there are unreported cases because the official unemployment count does not include people across the country who "are facing problems when trying to file claims, taxing a system not set up to process an unprecedented number of applications.”
"Latino people are the fastest-growing population in the United States, and it is estimated that by 2050, they will comprise nearly 30% of the total U.S. population," the report continues. "Latino people are a critical and ongoing driver of the United States economy, given the top industries in which we are largely concentrated. And yet Latino and immigrant workers continue to be America’s most vulnerable workers.”