KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Economic growth has long been supported by Hispanic and Latino workers in the United States and challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic fueled U.S. officials to examine their ongoing contributions despite being disproportionately affected by the virus and working conditions.

Reports released by both Congressional Democrat and Republican Joint Economic Committees this month detail how some of our nation’s top industries such as agriculture, construction and service are powered by Hispanic and Latino workers. In fact, one of the reports details how Hispanic Americans make up a large share of the essential workers that have kept the economy moving amid the pandemic – despite being the hardest hit.

There are 62 million Hispanic/Latino Americans living in the United States that power an estimated $2 trillion in economic output. Data from the report shared by the JECD highlights how despite these massive economic contributions, Hispanics and Latino working in the U.S. face lower wages, poorer benefits and worse working conditions; however, within the entire U.S. workforce, Hispanic/Latino Americans have returned to work at a faster rate than non-Hispanic white Americans.

More than 1 in 4 Hispanic and Latino workers in agriculture continued to help feed the nation through the worst of the pandemic, according to the JECD report, and also played a key role in health care occupations during the pandemic. More than a quarter of medical assistants and home health aides are Hispanic/Latino.

The report from the JECR, which primarily focuses on the American construction industry, states that according to the Current Population Survey, Hispanics and Latinos comprise about 18% of all workers, but 30% of construction workers. However, Hispanics and Latinos earn about 79% of the national average. But wages in the construction industry help to offer the group some advantages, the JECR report states.

Emerging data continues to show the health-related implications on Hispanics/Latino, who are twice as likely to contract COVID-19 and about three times more likely to be hospitalized from the virus and more than two times as likely to die as a result of COVID-19.

In Knox County, where 6% of the population is Hispanic or Latino, the vaccination rate among the population demographic is currently around 60%. Health and community leaders are aiming to continue the growth in not only vaccination rates due to most working as essential frontline industries, but also to improve overall quality of life.

WATE’s coverage and celebration of the Hispanic and Latinx community in East Tennessee is an eye-opening and exciting experience for our viewers, as well as a perfect opportunity for local businesses, nonprofits, organizations and education services to align with a positive news series.

Don’t miss our upcoming Hispanic Heritage Month Special on Sunday, Oct. 10 at 5:30 p.m.