Every event L.B. Muñoz had lined up for the rest of 2020 was canceled. Her new business, Spectacular Events, in Hartford, had only been up and running since November, and every event was canceled as gatherings were suspended to reduce the spreading of COVID-19.
Muñoz’s business is unique in that she provides temp work for every occasion that allows it. Hiring bar managers, a chef, and staff for large scale events.
“I was two weeks away from doing a bridal showcase. I had several weddings on the docket I had a couple of large scale, nonprofit fundraising events, and they all decided to cancel. It’s been pretty devastating,” Muñoz said.
After more than three months of strict shelter in place orders and massive layoffs and furloughs, people return to work as the country begins to open in phases. Despite the lowered unemployment numbers nationwide, unemployment remains higher among the Latino community.
The Department of Labor’s jobs report for May showed the unemployment rate declined to 13.3 percent and reported that nonfarm payrolls rose by 2.5 million in the United States. This was unexpected after the unemployment rate in April skyrocketed by 10 percentage points.
Yet, the same report showed the unemployment rate among Latinos at 17.6 percent, almost four percent higher than the rest of the country. The latest report from the U. S. Department of Labor lists Connecticut among the states with the highest unemployment rates, at 18 percent.
Latinas bear brunt of coronavirus effects on the workforce
Among Latino women, the unemployment rate is 19 percent, which means that nearly one out of five Latinas who were in the labor force were unable to find employment.
“When we look at the major racial and ethnic groups, Latinos have been hit disproportionately hard. Both Latinos and Latinas tend to work in jobs that were affected by the shutdown,” said Maria Mora, labor economist and professor at the University of Missouri St. Louis. Mora specializes in areas of the Hispanic/Latino labor market as well as self-employment and migration.
Latinos make up a large part of the hospitality industry, after the shutdown of all non-essential businesses they were left without work. This affected not only Latino women’s employment but also their participation rate in the labor force, decreasing to 57.1 percent.
“Many of the jobs that were hit so hard were held by women, there may have been fewer jobs available during this time period, Muñoz said. “We saw a disproportionate leaving of the labor force by women, especially Hispanic women.”
Another contributing factor was the closing of in-person classes. In many households, women are seen as caretakers and had no choice but to step away from the workforce to care for a family.
Maria Miranda, creative director of Miranda Creative, a brand management firm in Norwich, had to make several adjustments to her business as the pandemic provided challenges for her colleagues with children. Rather than lose an employee, the firm came up with a creative solution to balance family and work. Staff was given two-hour breaks to focus on family.
“We instituted parent hours, they would focus on making sure the kids were doing their learning time, reviewing what they were accomplishing for their day, have lunch with them. That was the kind of thing we needed to do,” Miranda said.
According to a study by the California Lutheran University, Latinos had an 82 percent growth from 2010-2017 in labor force participation.
As of May, the participation rate for the community is 64 percent nationwide. Latinos represent 18.1 percent of the U.S population, making their labor market participation an important economic policy issue.
The restrictions on large gatherings have not been lifted but Muñoz is adjusting to create social distancing events and small-scale events, including a water balloon fight for her birthday.
“I invited all of my friends and sent them all invitations with water balloons attached and invited everybody to Bushnell park for a water balloon fight and social distancing happy hour afterward,” Muñoz said. “I figured the best thing to do when you’re trying to stay away from people is throw water balloons at them.”