Just when Latinos seemed to have the American Dream within reach, a new catastrophe brings them back to square one. According to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic is devastating: total nonfarm payroll employment fell by 20.5 million in April, and the unemployment rate is 14.7% –the highest since the Great Depression. In the Hispanic community the rate is 18.7% .
The information shared by the Department of Labor last Friday “offers the first true glimpse of how young people, women, and black and Latino Americans are disproportionately suffering from the current economic crisis,” Andrew Stetner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation, told USA Today. “It’s what always happens during disasters such as this. Those with the least power and resources are hit first and hardest.”
The setback for the Hispanic community triples the low rate – 4.3 – documented as recently as January of 2020. As The Wall Street Journal reported last year, the purchasing power of Latinos in the country before the pandemic was an essential driving force of the U.S> economy. Latinos bought “more homes than any ethnic group, including whites,” and tripled their college enrollment rate in the last twenty years, according to data from the Pew Research Center.
The impact on the migrant workforce means a slow recovery for the over-all economy. “Migrants are not only the first ones to lose their job but will be the last ones to regain it,” Manuel Orozco, a director at the Inter-American Dialogue and also a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Center for International Development of the Inter-American Dialogue, told NPR. This is due, in part, to the important work of Latinos in the restaurant and construction industries, where they represent 40% of the workforce.
“The official unemployment numbers are reminiscent of the Great Depression and confirm what we see in our communities: lines of cars, that look like a parking lot, waiting at the local food bank,” Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, told NBC News.
“We need urgent action from Congress to keep more workers employed and immediate economic assistance for all Americans beyond a one-time stimulus check,” he said.
According to a recent report by the League of United Latin American Citizens, the impact of the coronavirus is disproportionate and reaches Latino individuals and small business owners. Moreover, only 49% of Latinos in the country have access to private health care, and 70% have no assets in a retirement account, according to figures from the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.