As Rhode Island Latino Labor Force Grows, More Education and Training is Needed to Help Workers Compete in Local Workforce

PROVIDENCE, R.I., Feb. 29, 2016 –The number of Latino workers in Rhode Island is
expected to more than double by 2040 according to the infographic, “State of Working
Rhode Island: The Latino Labor Force,” released today by the Latino Policy Institute
at Roger Williams University.
In the last decade, the Latino labor force has increased 38 percent (from 8.4
percent to 11.6 percent) – representing the largest growth among workers of color in
the state.

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Yet, even with the projected growth – in which Latinos will make up nearly a quarter
of Rhode Island’s total workforce – Latino workers face major employment challenges
including a scarcity of jobs, significant wage and income disparity and a lack of
adequate education and skill to compete in today’s job market, all of which can have
major implications for the state’s economy.

The data shows that the unemployment rate among Rhode Island Latinos is the highest
in the nation at 16.2 percent in 2014, more than double the national rate of 7.4
percent. A loss in local manufacturing jobs – which decreased by 19 percent from
2007 to 2014 – has left many Latinos unemployed, underemployed or working part-time
positions. Also adding to the scarcity of jobs is the state’s job deficit in which
the state would need to create approximately 12,700 jobs to regain the positions
lost during the recession and to meet the demands of this population growth.

“Latinos are the fastest growing demographic in the state and will continue to make
up a larger piece of Rhode Island’s labor force. We often celebrate progress in our
workforce climate; for example, unemployment rates continue to go down in Rhode
Island. However, when we put a magnifying glass to communities of color, the
unemployment rates and wage gaps are unacceptably high. We need to create a climate
that not only meets the needs of businesses but also meets the needs of our workers
to access higher wage jobs as well as gaining access to emerging industries that
offer upward mobility,” said LPI Director Anna Cano Morales. “Our economy depends on
our workforce. It’s critical that all workers and potential workers have the
education, skillset and tools they need to compete.”

The Latino Policy Institute created the infographic with data from the Economic
Progress Institute report, «The State of Working Rhode Island 2015: Workers of
Color,»
to shine a spotlight on Rhode Island Latino workers. The infographic shows Latino
workers earn significantly less when comparing hourly wage rates and household
income to other race and ethnic groups. In 2014, the median hourly wage for Latinos
was $12.45 as compared to $19.99 for White workers. The median household income for
Latinos was approximately half of the median White household income in 2014 –
$30,797 for the Latino household and $61,406 for the White household. Just 12
percent of Rhode Island Latinos have a bachelor’s degree and 1 out of 3 Latino
workers do not have a high school credential.

LPI revealed the infographic today at an event held at the Rhode Island State House
in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT), which
gathered elected officials, members of Governor Raimondo’s Cabinet, local education,
policy and community leaders.

About RWU: Roger Williams University, with its main campus located on the coast of
Bristol, R.I., is a forward-thinking private university with 45 undergraduate majors
spanning the liberal arts and the professions, where students become
community-minded citizens through project-based, experiential learning. With small
classes, direct access to faculty and boundless opportunity for real-world projects,
RWU students develop the ability to think critically while simultaneously building
the practical skills that today’s employers demand. In the three years since
launching its signature Affordable Excellence initiative, the University has
established itself as a leader in American higher education by confronting the most
pressing issues facing students and families – increasing costs that limit access to
college, rising debt and the job readiness of graduates. In addition to its 4,000
undergraduates, RWU is home to more than a dozen graduate programs, a thriving
School of Continuing Studies based in Providence as well as Rhode Island’s only law
school.