NC in Focus: Hispanic Employment & Business Ownership

Series note: This post and the others in this series are the outgrowth of a presentation jointly developed with Dr. Krista M. Perreira and presented by Dr. Perreira to the October meeting of the North Carolina Governor’s Hispanic/Latino Advisory Board.

Terminology note: The U.S. Census Bureau introduced the term Hispanic in 1980 and this is a term preferred by some Hispanic/Latino populations. The term Latino became more commonly used in the 1990s and is preferred by others. Most recently, younger Latinas and Latinos have introduced the more gender-neutral term Latinx. In these posts and materials, we use the terms Hispanic and Latino interchangeably.

Hispanic residents are active participants in North Carolina’s economy. Mexico is a leading source of Latino residents in part due to long-standing trading partnerships with Mexico that were established over several decades. Today, Mexico is one of our top 5 trading partners. In 2016, North Carolina had $3.0 billion in exports to Mexico. (Industrial machinery, electric machinery, and vehicles were among the top export categories.)

North Carolina’s Hispanic/Latino population is very young: just 3% of the state’s Hispanic residents are 65 or older (versus 16% statewide) and half of the population is under the age of 25. In addition, many of North Carolina’s Hispanic and Latino residents initially moved to the state to work. Reflecting these two factors, Hispanics/Latinos typically have higher labor force participation rates than other racial/ethnic groups in the United States. Nationwide, 67% of Hispanic/Latino residents age 16 and older are in the labor force and just 6.7% of those workers are unemployed. In North Carolina, 71% of all Hispanics/Latinos are in the labor market; only 6.3% of those who are looking for work do not have a job.

The Hispanic/Latino population is also highly entrepreneurial, establishing many new businesses in the state. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of Hispanic-owned businesses in North Carolina increased from just 21,300 to nearly 34,900 according to the Survey of Business Owners, an increase 13,600 of 64%. This growth far outpaced total firm growth. Over this period, the state’s total number of firms grew by just 7,200 or 0.9%. In 2012, Hispanic-owned businesses made up 4.3% of all North Carolina firms, a significant increase from 2.7% in 2007.

Many Hispanic-owned businesses are a sole proprietorship or partnership with no paid employees. In 2012, 9% of Hispanic-owned businesses had paid employees, half of the statewide share of all firms (19%). In 2012, there were 3,200 Hispanic firms with paid employees. These firms employed 24,000 individuals and paid out $730 million in wages. According to the Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, there were 4,200 Hispanic-owned firms with paid employees in 2015 with total employment of more than 35,000 and $1 billion in payroll.

About Rebecca Tippett

Rebecca Tippett is Director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill's Carolina Population Center.
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