As the economy adds jobs, Latino unemployment is at 9.1 percent.

As the economy adds jobs, Latino unemployment is at 9.1 percent. (Business)

On economy, signs of progress ahead

The June jobs report may have shown that the Latino unemployment rate has stayed at 9.1 percent, but Latina economists and business owners say that there may be more to the number than meets the eye.

According to Adriana Kugler, former Labor Department chief economist and Georgetown University professor, the economy’s consistent growth over the past few years heralds more progress to come. In 2011, the economy added 175,000 jobs. In 2012, 183,000 jobs. Just last month, close to 200,00 jobs- 195,000 jobs- were created.

“We came from a very, very deep haul in 2008. It took a while for jobs to be created,” Kugler says. “It’s a natural progression. That’s the key thing.”

Kugler also notes that the strong jobs gains have come in some of the most challenging circumstances such as Hurricane Sandy slamming the East Coast in November and political problems like the fiscal cliff and sequestration.

“We’ve seen all these headwinds come our way, but things are actually okay and it’s not having too big of an impact. Employers are now creating jobs and consumers are keeping on spending,” she says.

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Veronica Ruelas, owner of clothing line Ashram Chic and founder of the optometry philanthropy Third Eye Vision, has seen growth firsthand within her own business.

“I have been doing more hiring. I think we’ve just just been catching up and implementing new policies and now I feel like it’s all coming together and happening,” Ruelas says. “My friends who also own their own businesses are doing more hiring as well.”

Although Friday’s jobs numbers showed a continued pattern of strong growth in jobs creation, the unemployment rate for Latinos remained at 9.1 percent- the same number it was at in May 2012. Kugler attributes the higher Latino rate to two main factors: education and the sectors that Latinos work in.

The Latino unemployment rate is higher than the national unemployment rate of 7.6 percent partly because of an education gap. Kugler says that only 15 percent of Latinos have a four-year college degree. The other factor is a disproportionate hiring of Latinos in sectors hurt more by the economy.

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“Latinos are disproportionately hired in construction, and while the construction sector has been generating jobs in 12 of the past 13 months, it’s taken longer because of the housing crisis four years ago,” she explains.

Still, for Kugler, just because the latest jobs numbers didn’t show specific growth for Latinos, its not necessarily bad news.

“At the height of the recession the unemployment rate was at 13.1 percent, so it’s very important to remember that it has come down a full four percentage points,” she says. “We have made progress and we have improved.”

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