The Pew Hispanic Center, which conducted the survey, found that while the housing market encountered a few rifts during the last two years, construction work has remained one of the main hiring fields for Latinos. Latinos who are foreign-born and recently arrived represented the majority of that workforce.
Northern Colorado construction employers had mixed reactions to the news, with some saying they have noticed the increase and others reporting no changes in the job market.
“I’ve noticed that our labor force is pretty much exclusive to people of Spanish descent,” said Douglas Lockhart, president and owner of Lockhart Constructors, which operates in northern Colorado. “We still are not seeing the increases in higher and mid-level applications.”
In the past three years, the percentage of Lockhart’s labor force that consisted of Latino applicants rose from 50 percent to 75 percent. He said the majority of those new employees were in entry-level construction positions.
Lockhart, who’s been in business for 34 years, said this mirrors the overall industry trend.
“It has steadily worked its way up,” Lockhart said of the growth in Latino workers. “I would say that in the next 10 years, you are going to see the labor force that is out there get more experience and move into the higher positions.”
Latinos, who represent 13.6 percent of total U.S. employment, accounted for about 37 percent of the increase in employment in the last year, which is comparable to the steady increase in Latino employment in the last three decades.
Most of the construction jobs that went to Latinos were in the southern and western regions of the country, which the study said is consistent with the distribution of the Latino workforce.
Tom Roche, president of Roche Constructors, which is headquartered in Greeley but operates throughout the western U.S., said he has not encountered an increase in the Latino construction workforce.
“I haven’t really noticed that going on,” Roche said. “We’ve always had a fair share of diversification and I have not seen that change much in the last couple of years.”
The data came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, which surveyed 60,000 households between 2004 and 2006.
Latinos in the construction industry
* The industry grew by 559,000 workers in 2006, of which 372,000 were Latino.
* Latinos, who now represent 25 percent of the construction industry’s employment base, made up 66.5 percent of the industry’s employment growth in the last year.
* An attributing factor could be that 40 percent of the total increase in the working-age population in 2006 were Latinos.
Source: Pew Hispanic Center