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Hispanic unemployment highest in Northeast metropolitan areas

Issue Brief #314

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When many people think of high Hispanic unemployment, they think of metropolitan areas like Las Vegas and Los Angeles. This is understandable since these areas have high levels of Hispanic unemployment and large Hispanic populations. But as this issue brief emphasizes, the Hispanic population is not only in the West. In fact, the two highest Hispanic metropolitan unemployment rates are in the Northeast: Providence, R.I., and Hartford, Conn. It is important to understand high Hispanic unemployment in the Northeast because solutions in this area may differ from the solutions for Hispanic job seekers in the West.

SEE ALSO: High black unemployment widespread across nation’s metropolitan areas

This issue brief looks at the Hispanic unemployment rates in the 38 large metropolitan areas for which we were able to derive estimates.1 (A companion Issue Brief #315 on black metropolitan unemployment rates is available through the EPI website.) The key findings of this issue brief are:

  • In 2010, the two highest Hispanic metropolitan unemployment rates were in the Northeast: Hispanic unemployment was 25.2 percent in Providence, R.I., and 23.5 percent in Hartford, Connecticut. For Providence, 2010 was the second year in a row Hispanics had an unemployment rate over 20 percent.
  • Hispanics in the Hartford metropolitan area were 3.4 times as likely as whites to be unemployed. In Providence, Hispanics were 2.5 times as likely as whites to be unemployed.
  • Five California metropolitan areas made it into the top 10 metropolitan areas with the highest Hispanic unemployment rates: Fresno, Bakersfield, Riverside, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
  • Six Texas metropolitan areas were among the 10 with the lowest Latino unemployment rates: Laredo, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, El Paso, Houston, and Austin.
  • Washington, D.C. had the lowest Hispanic unemployment rate.

Hispanic unemployment rates and increases in 2010

Table 1 shows Hispanic unemployment rates for selected metropolitan areas in 2009 and 2010. After Providence and Hartford, the metropolitan area that ranked third highest for Hispanic unemployment was Fresno, Calif., which had a rate of 21.1 percent in 2010. Las Vegas, Nevada ranked fourth with a rate of 19.4 percent, and Bakersfield, Calif. ranked fifth at 18.4 percent.

Five California metropolitan areas made it into the nation’s top 10 in terms of highest Latino unemployment rates: Fresno, Bakersfield, Riverside, San Francisco, and Los Angeles (no California cities were in the lowest 10).  Hispanics fared much better in Texas, which had six of the 10 metropolitan areas with the lowest Hispanic unemployment rates: Laredo, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, El Paso, Houston, and Austin. The lowest Latino unemployment rate in the country, however, was in Washington, D.C.

The five metropolitan areas with the largest Hispanic populations are Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, and Riverside, Calif. (Frey 2011). Riverside ranked fifth with an unemployment rate of 18.4 percent, and Los Angeles was ranked ninth with an unemployment rate of 13.4 percent. Miami was ranked 12th, New York was 23rd, and Houston was 36th.

The Providence and Hartford metropolitan areas not only were first and second in terms of the highest Hispanic unemployment rates in 2010, but also had the first and second largest increases in Hispanic unemployment from 2009 to 2010. Hartford had the largest increase, 7.5 percentage points, while Hispanic unemployment in Providence increased 4.6 percentage points. In 18 of the 38 metropolitan areas, Hispanic unemployment increased by more than one percentage point.

The ratio of Hispanic-to-white unemployment

When comparing Latino and white unemployment rates, Providence and Hartford again stand out. Hartford led with the highest ratio of Hispanic-to-white unemployment rates in 2010, and Providence ranked second (Table 2). In 2010, Latinos in the Hartford metropolitan area were 3.4 times as likely as whites to be unemployed, while those in Providence were 2.5 times as likely to be unemployed. Not only did these metropolitan areas have high Latino unemployment rates, but the Latino unemployment rates were much higher than that of whites. (For the white and overall unemployment rates, see the appendix.)

Providence and Hartford also had above average Hispanic-to-white unemployment rate ratios in 2009. In 2009, the national Hispanic-to-white unemployment rate ratio was 1.6-to-1, but Providence and Hartford had ratios over 2-to-1. The Hispanic-to-white unemployment disparity spiked in Hartford in 2010. In 2009, the ratio was 2.4-to-1 in Hartford, but, in 2010, it was 3.4-to-1.

In the 2010 Hispanic-to-white unemployment rate ratio, San Antonio, Texas, and Orlando, Fla. tied for third with a Hispanic-to-white unemployment ratio of 1.9-to-1. Fresno and Bakersfield in California tied with Minneapolis for fifth with ratios of 1.8-to-1.

Of the five metropolitan areas with the largest Latino populations, Riverside, Calif., and Miami had the largest disparities in 2010, both with a ratio of 1.7-to-1. New York had a ratio of 1.6-to-1. Los Angeles and Houston had ratios of 1.4-to-1.


The industrial profile of the Hispanic labor force in Hartford and Providence

It is beyond the scope of this issue brief to explore in detail the possible factors behind the high Hispanic unemployment rates and Hispanic-to-white unemployment rate ratios in the Hartford and Providence metropolitan areas. A brief examination of the industrial profile of the Hispanic labor force in these areas suggests that the dynamics driving the employment situation in Hartford and Providence may be different than those at work in other metropolitan areas. While we examine the industrial distribution of Hispanics in these areas, factors unrelated to the industrial distribution may also be important to understanding the high ratios in Hartford and Providence.

In 2007, before the start of the recession, Hispanics in Hartford and Providence were less than half as likely as those in other metropolitan areas to work in construction (Table 3). Construction has been a key driver, first of employment in general, and then of unemployment for Hispanic workers in recent years (Kochhar 2008; 2011). The low share of Hispanic workers in the construction industry in these metropolitan areas suggests that there may be different factors behind Hispanic employment and unemployment trends in Hartford and Providence in comparison with other parts of the country.

Manufacturing is a relatively more important industry to Latinos in Hartford and Providence than in other metro areas. The share of Latino workers in manufacturing is 3.9 percentage points higher in Hartford than in other metro areas, and in Providence, Latinos are about twice as likely to be in manufacturing compared with other metropolitan areas.

Education and health services have been growing sectors since the recession (Kochhar 2011). Although a quarter of Hispanics in Hartford are in these fields, the area still experienced high Hispanic unemployment since the recession.

The factors behind the high unemployment rate in Hartford and Providence appear to be different from the factors driving high unemployment for Hispanics in other metropolitan areas. Construction has been an important part of the Hispanic unemployment story nationally, but it is probably less important in these metro areas. Further research is necessary to understand the causes and solutions to high Hispanic unemployment in Hartford and Providence.


  1. Unemployment rate estimates were created for metropolitan areas that had a sufficient Hispanic sample size in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey for reliable estimates in 2007.


Austin, Algernon. 2010. Uneven pain: Unemployment by metropolitan area and race. Economic Policy Institute, Issue Brief #278. Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy Institute.

Frey, William H. 2011. The New Metro Minority Map: Regional Shifts in Hispanics, Asians, and Blacks from Census 2010. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.

Kochhar, Rakesh. 2008. Latino labor report, 2008: Construction reverses job growth for Latinos. Washington, D.C.: Pew Hispanic Center.

Kochhar, Rakesh. 2011. “Table 7,” New jobs in recession and recovery: Who are getting them and who are not.  Written testimony submitted to The Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement. Washington, D.C.: Pew Hispanic Center.

Ruggles, Steven, J. Trent Alexander, Katie Genadek, Ronald Goeken, Matthew B. Schroeder, and Matthew Sobek. 2011. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 5.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.

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