Voters in the midterm elections sent a clear directive to Congress to tackle unemployment, and Democrats and Republicans fervently reaffirmed their commitment to get Americans back to work. But the last three weeks have made it clear that years of disappointing jobs reports, anger from unemployed Americans, pressure from desperate businesses, and warnings from economists of all stripes are little match for the political realities in Washington. Partisan sniping and a focus on deficit reduction mean that any new proposal to jumpstart hiring will be subject to heavy scrutiny. Members of Congress will likely shy away from offering large-scale, comprehensive plans to create jobs for fear of being portrayed as fiscally irresponsible.
Even if no one in Washington is willing to go big for American workers, lawmakers must still take steps to advance job creation incrementally -- or risk losing their jobs in 2012. A good starting point to stimulate job creation is to find out where it's actually happening. In which states? In which industries? How can we build on this momentum?
It turns out that during the height of the recession, Latinos made employment gains in several states (see table here). This is despite elevated unemployment rates for Latinos, which remain two to three percentage points above the national rate. These figures only account for Latinos who are currently employed, so they cannot be explained solely by the fact that Latinos are the fastest-growing share of the American labor force (those who are employed and those who are searching for work). Against the odds, Latino workers are helping to sustain a fragile but unmistakable recovery.
In the coming months, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) -- the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States -- will take a closer look at promising employment trends. We'll interview industry and state labor market experts and make recommendations based on what we learn. We welcome your input and hope you will contribute in the comments section below.