Federal hiring of Hispanics slows, nearly flat

Hispanic representation in the federal workforce has increased just 0.2 percent in the past four years, according to new data from the Office of Personnel Management.

In its annual report on Hispanic employment in government released on Sept. 30, OPM found that the group's representation among federal civilian employees held steady at 8.0 percent in fiscal 2010 compared to the previous year. Hispanics made up 6.5 percent of federal civilian workers in fiscal 2000 and grew to 7.8 percent by fiscal 2007.

According to OPM, Hispanics made up 6.3 percent of new hires in fiscal 2010, down from 7 percent in fiscal 2009. Retention rates remain high, however, resulting in steady representation among the workforce as a whole. The report found notable declines in Hispanic hiring among the Senior Executive Service and General Schedule employees, while there was an increase among other white collar workers. During the past three years, SES-level Hispanic federal employees grew by 0.2.

Ten of 23 large agencies increased Hispanic representation in fiscal 2010, while seven reported declines. The Homeland Security Department employs the largest percentage of Hispanics at 20.8 percent of its total workforce, followed by the Social Security Administration at 14.1 percent and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at 13.7 percent. The Health and Human Services Department brought up the rear, with just 3.3 percent of its workforce identifying as Hispanic.

Jorge Ponce, co-president of the Council of Federal EEO and Civil Rights Executives, called the news "horrible," adding that no progress has been made in recent years, especially for Hispanics in top leadership positions.

"A 0.2 percent growth in three years in the Hispanic representation at the SES rank -- where decisions are made and budgets are approved -- is unacceptable," Ponce said.

A report released last month by the Center for American Progress painted a bleak picture for Hispanic representation in the SES in the coming decades. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that Latinos will make up 23 percent of civilian workers nationally in 2030, but CAP projections put them at just 6.8 percent of the government's senior executives. The gap is expected to extend through 2050, when 30 percent of the workforce will be Hispanic compared to 12.5 percent or less of the SES, the report found.

Obama administration officials recently have taken steps to boost employment of Hispanics and other minorities across government. OPM in February launched the Hispanic Council on Federal Employment, an advisory group charged with boosting Hispanic hiring, recruitment, retention and advancement in government.

According to the report, the council is working on increasing the use of internship programs, strengthening accountability, preparing Hispanics for entering the SES, and creating recruitment and communication strategies for Hispanic communities.

In addition, President Obama in August issued an executive order directing agencies to develop roadmaps for hiring, training and promoting more minorities, women, and disabled employees in an effort to diversify the federal government, particularly at the senior levels. According to OPM Director John Berry, that framework is forthcoming.

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