Los Angeles (CNN) - Given the growing influence of the Hispanic vote, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar tried Thursday to seize on the increasingly pivotal role they will likely play in helping President Barack Obama's re-election prospects.
During a White House Hispanic Community Action Summit in Los Angeles, Salazar acknowledged the relative slow pace of economic recovery but emphasized that the nation's steady job growth is benefitting Hispanics across a broad spectrum of economic areas.
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"Four million jobs have been created in this country over the last several years, the last three months have seen job growth in the private sector of over 200,000 jobs a month and we are on the way back," Salazar said during a news conference.
According to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, Latino owned businesses generated $350 billion in revenue over the past five years, a 55% increase.
But the gravity of the economic recession among Hispanics is reflected in Department of Labor statistics which show the Hispanic unemployment rate at 10.7%. Voter turnout, particularly in the Southwest, is likely to play a crucial factor in the president's re-election strategy in November.
With a population of 54 million, disaffection among Hispanic voters remains high, especially on key issues like job creation, immigration reform and education. Salazar said he hoped to change those sentiments.
"When President Obama became president of the United States, we had gone to the point where the United States of America had fallen into what was going to be the second great depression," Salazar said.
"We know we came out of a ditch but we feel good about where we are and we recognize, the president recognizes, that we still have a long ways to go," he said.