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Chart Book (6th edition): Labor Force Characteristics - Hispanic Workers in Construction and Other Industries

16. Hispanic Workers in Construction and Other Industries

The share of Hispanic1 workers within the U.S. labor force has increased significantly since the 1990s, particularly in the construction industry. From 1990 to 2015, the proportion of workers in all industries that identified themselves as Hispanic more than doubled, jumping from 7.0% to 16.4%, and more than tripled in the construction industry, climbing from 9.0% to 28.6% in the same time period (chart 16a). However, since the onset of the Great Recession (see Glossary) in 2007, the pace of growth of the U.S. Hispanic population has slowed given fewer immigrants and a falling birth rate, bringing the annual average growth rate down from 4.4% to 2.8%.2 This change is reflected in employment trends; the number of Hispanic workers in construction dropped to 2.2 million in 2010 from its peak at nearly three million in 2007 (chart 16b). With the recent economic recovery, Hispanic employment in construction increased to 2.8 million in 2015, but was still lower than its peak level in 2007.

Most Hispanic workers are new immigrants (see page 15). About 73% of the 2.8 million Hispanics working in construction in 2015 were born outside the U.S., and nearly 1.7 million (59%) were not U.S. citizens. A majority of Hispanic workers are employed in production, or blue-collar, occupations (see pages 11 and 17). In 2015, 34.3% of production workers in construction were Hispanic, higher than the proportion among production workers in any other industry (chart 16c).

The Hispanic population is overrepresented in the South and West regions (see Glossary) .3 In 2015, 48% of Hispanic construction workers resided in the South, 35% in the West, 10% in the Northeast, and 7% in the Midwest. At the state level, more than half (54.5%) of Hispanics in the United States lived in California, Florida, and Texas.4 In construction, Hispanic workers accounted for more than half of all construction workers in California, New Mexico, and Texas, but less than 3% in Vermont, West Virginia, North and South Dakota, Montana, and Maine (chart 16d).

In this chart book, detailed demographic information for sub groups (such as language spoken among foreign-born workers) and state-level data are from the American Community Survey (ACS; see page 15), while data on employment trends, occupation, and unionization are from the Current Population Survey (CPS; see page 10). Both the ACS and the CPS provide a Spanish language version of their survey instruments and identify people as Hispanic only if self-reported by the respondent. The number of Hispanic workers is suspected to be underestimated since the majority of Hispanic workers are immigrants, and the undercount rates in household surveys for the foreign-born population are significantly higher than for the U.S.-born population.5

The ACS sample size is much larger than that of the CPS, but the CPS has more detailed labor force questions. For example, the CPS collects information on union status, while the ACS does not. The CPS sample is designed to achieve a high degree of reliability for monthly estimates nationwide, but its sample is spread too thin geographically to provide reliable computations for state-level estimates within the construction industry. Therefore, the two surveys were used for distinct purposes in this chart book.


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Great Recession  began in December 2007 and lasted until June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Business Cycle Dating Committee, which defines national recessions.

Production workers – In this chart book, same as blue-collar workers. From the Current Population Survey: all workers, except managerial, professional (architects, accountants, lawyers, etc.), and administrative support staff. Production workers can be either wage-and-salary or self-employed workers.

Regions – The 50 states and the District of Columbia are divided into regions as follows: Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont); South (Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia); Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin); and West (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming).


1. Hispanic refers to any individual whose origin is Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American, Chicano, or other Latin American. Hispanics can be any race (see racial minorities in the Glossary and page 18). The term Latino is used in place of Hispanic in many publications. However, to maintain consistency, Hispanic is used throughout this chart book, as it is used by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

2. Krogstad JM. 2016. Key facts about how the U.S. Hispanic population is changing. Pew Research Center. (Accessed November 2016).

3. U.S. Census Bureau. 2016. Census regions and divisions are groupings of states that subdivide the United States, including Northeast, Midwest, South, and West. (Accessed November 2016).

4. U.S. Census Bureau. 2016. Vintage 2015 population estimates. (Accessed November 2016).

5. Pew Research Center. 2015. Hispanic Trends. Modern immigration wave brings 59 million to U.S., driving population growth and change through 2065. (Accessed November 2016).



Charts 16a and 16b – The numbers of Hispanics before 2005 were adjusted by the parameters provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.



Charts 16a and 16b – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2015 and previous years Current Population Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.

Chart 16c – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2015 Current Population Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.

Chart 16d – U.S. Census Bureau. 2015 American Community Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.


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