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Rebuilding San Diego's Latino Workforce

As published in San Diego News Network

by Vince Vasquez

Monday, July 20, 2009

The construction field has traditionally been a vital source of employment for millions of U.S. Hispanics.

As local industry work stagnates, San Diego lawmakers should consider new approaches to improving the economic prospects of the industry that has built San Diego.

The economic data is grim. San Diego County’s construction industry slashed 11,100 jobs from May 2008 to May 2009.

The true size of industry job losses is likely much larger, as a significant portion of construction projects is completed informally by curbside laborers and entrepreneurial handymen looking for an honest day’s work.

The industry has shrunk down to a level last seen in January 2000. An analysis of monthly residential building permits issued in San Diego County finds that regional construction work has slowed to a trickle, reaching a new 12 month low that hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression.

With half of all California industry workers being Hispanic of Latino background, this collapse of construction activity has been particularly concentrated. Last month, the State Employment Development Department found that in May 2009, the state Latino unemployment rate stood at 11.9 percent, a figure higher than the overall rate for the state and the nation.

For young Hispanics who could participate in apprenticeship programs and first-time industry opportunities, this summer’s prospects are even more bleak than their elders; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 16 to 19 year old U.S. Latinos are weathering a 31 percent unemployment rate.