Despite touting himself as a hard worker who hardly ever misses a day of work, Hector Torres has been having trouble finding steady work.
On a recent afternoon the 32-year-old El Centro resident and former agricultural worker could be found sitting in his vehicle in the parking lot of Bucklin Park filling out job applications on his laptop computer.
A devout Christian, he also expressed hope for his future prospects, even though what little work he has been able to pick up in the past year has been temporary in nature.
“It’s gotten a little better,” Torres said.
Such confidence — whether genuine, guarded or untenable — also seems to be more evident among the rest of the country’s Latinos. Compared to a year ago, more Latinos are expressing a greater degree of satisfaction with their personal fortunes and the nation’s direction, a Pew Hispanic Center survey released Nov. 2 reported.
The survey, which was released prior to the last week’s election, had asked Latino respondents how they felt about their family’s finances in the coming year. A growing number, 73 percent, expressed optimism and expected improvement, compared to 67 percent who responded similarly in 2011.
Also, 33 percent of respondents reported having their finances in “excellent” or “good” shape, compared to 24 percent who said the same in 2011.
Aside from an attitudinal shift, data suggest that the Hispanic unemployment rate is also on the mend, having fallen to 9.9 percent in the third quarter of 2012, a slight decline from the 11.2 percent that was reported in the third quarter of 2011, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics.
But, without income, Torres, who is married and has a teenage child, said he felt compelled to apply for food stamps and Medi-Cal, even though his wife works. Torres, if found to be eligible, would become one of the county’s 39,579 active CalFresh and 52,917 Medi-Cal recipients.
The number of recipients for both programs has held steady during the past year or more, county Department of Social Services Deputy Director Winn McFadden said. The county population stands at 177,057, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
While 21-year-old Richard Camarena said his personal finances aren’t quite where he would like them to be, they stand to improve considerably in the coming years. After having also been unemployed for a prolonged spell, Camarena this week started an apprenticeship with a laborers’ union. He said he is looking forward to the opportunity of eventually becoming a journeyman.
“It’s not just good money, but benefits, too,” Camarena said. “It’s not just a job, but a career.”
Just a year ago, Camarena said his job prospects were “zero.” He also expressed hope that his apprenticeship would lead to some sort of work with the local renewable energy development that is taking place in the Valley.
“I feel it has turned around 100 percent for me,” Camarena said.
A lifelong resident who plans to raise his child in the Valley, Camarena said he would like nothing more than to spend his earnings locally.
Another possible indicator that more Valley residents are gaining confidence in their personal finances is increasing taxable sales.
During the second quarter of 2011, the latest period for which state Board of Equalization data are available, county residents spent $530 million. That figure is a 7.1 increase from the prior year’s figure.
Staff Writer, Copy Editor Julio Morales can be reached at 760-337-3415 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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