Employment Rate for Hispanics Good in Region 8

February 23, 2004 -- Posted at 4:37 p.m. CST

JONESBORO -- A new study says that the unemployment rate is up for Hispanics across America, but how does that number translate for Hispanics right here in Region 8?

Unemployment is a problem nation wide, but a Washington based study suggests that the jobless rate among Latinos is up. 

But members of the Hispanic community here in Region 8 disagree.

Henry Torres works as a senior lecturer at Arkansas State University and is a member of the Hispanic community. He says Hispanics are moving to Northeast Arkansas at a fast rate.

"All the Hispanics have come here because they think it's a paradise. They think they can find a job, they can get a decent wage, and they can also take their kids to school and get a good education with their kids. And be a safe environment for their kids and their family. So they're a lot like Americans, they just want a good place to live for their families," said Torres.

The study analyzing government data compiled by the PEW Hispanic Center found that the jobless rate for Latinos jumped 7.3% in January, up from 6.6% in December.

"Everybody is working and, in fact, some of them are trying to find jobs, but they are trying to get better jobs basically," said Benjamin Sanchez, editor of El Hispano newspaper in Jonesboro.

And with only 16,000 Hispanics in Region 8, Sanchez says it's actually tough to keep up with the demand for bilingual workers.

"We're pretty much doing very well. We're seeing Hispanics working, we have almost a zero rate of unemployment for Hispanics. Especially those that are bilingual, in fact we receive calls from those people asking for workers that are bilingual and we're short, were trying to find some more," said Sanchez.

The demand for bilingual workers is increasing here in Northeast Arkansas as more and more Hispanics move to the area.

"A lot of employers are saying, hey, I'd like to have some Hispanics on my team to help break down the communication barrier. So I think that's a big plus for the community as well as the retailers and employers to have people on their staff that are Spanish speaking because a lot of their clients are Spanish speaking," said Torres.

So why is the local jobless rate better here in Region 8?

"The area is growing, I think that's one thing, it's growing very fast. And the other one is that actually there's not very many Hispanics here yet. So there is still room to grow in this area," said Sanchez.

The labor department reports that the national unemployment rate--regardless of race or ethnicity--was 5.6 % in January, just one percent lower than the Hispanic rate.

The PEW Hispanic Center report says the main reason for the increase was that more people were entering or re-entering the labor force.