2014

Immigrants Main Beneficiaries of Net Increase in U.S. Jobs

Two-thirds of Employment Growth during Obama's Term Went to Foreign-born

WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new analysis of government data by the Center for Immigration Studies shows that two-thirds of the net increase in employment since President Obama took office has gone to immigrant workers, primarily legal immigrants. Although total immigration has fallen in recent years, legal immigration remains very high. While economists debate the extent to which immigrants displace natives, the new data makes clear that a general labor shortage does not exist. This analysis calls into question the wisdom of bringing in more than one million new legal immigrants each year. The complete study can be found at: http://cis.org/who-got-jobs-during-obama-presidency.

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Steve Camarota, the Center's Director of Research, points out, "It is extraordinary that most of the employment growth in the last four years has gone to foreign-born workers. But what is even more extraordinary is that the issue has not even come up during the presidential election."

Among the findings of this analysis:

  • Since President Obama took office 67% of employment growth has gone to immigrants (legal and illegal).
  • There were 1.94 million more immigrants (legal and illegal) working in the 3rd quarter of 2012 than at the start of 2009, when the president took office. This compares to a 938,000 increase for the native-born over the same time period.
  • Most of the growth in immigrant employment went to newly arrived immigrants, rather than immigrants already in the country. Some 1.6 million new immigrant workers have arrived from abroad since the start of 2009 – we estimate 70 to 90 percent entered legally.
  • Immigrants made employment gains across the labor market. In occupations where immigrant gains were the largest, there were 2.2 million unemployed natives.
  • A large share of employment growth was already going to immigrants well before the president took office. However, he has taken steps to increase the level of job competition from foreign-born workers.
    • He offered work authorization to an estimated 2 million illegal immigrants who arrived in the country before age 16 – nearly 200,000 of whom have applied so far.
    • When auditing employers who hire illegal workers the administration, as a matter of policy, does not detain the illegal workers, allowing them to seek other employment.
    • The administration called on the Supreme Court in 2010 to strike down Arizona's law requiring employers to verify the legal status of new workers.
  • Natives have done better in the labor market recently. From the 3rd quarter of 2011 to the 3rd quarter of 2012, two-thirds of employment growth went to native-born workers.
  • Despite recent improvements, in the third quarter of 2012 there was a huge number of working-age (18 to 65) native-born Americans not employed:
    • 7.6 million with less than a high school education (18 to 65)
    • 18.1 million with only a high school education (18 to 65)
    • 15.8 million with some college (18 to 65)
    • 9.2 million college graduates (18 to 65)
  • Some people who are not working do not wish to work. However, the broad measure of unemployment that includes those who've given up looking for a job, shows a dismal picture for adult natives (18+) in the third quarter of 2012:
    • 30.8% for high school dropouts
    • 18.1% for those only a high school education
    • 13.8% for those with some college
    • 8% for all college graduates, 13% for college graduates under age 30.
  • While significantly more immigrants are presently working, their unemployment rate remains high and the share of working age adults (18-65) holding a job has only slightly improved since the president took office.

Discussion: The net increase in employment over the president's term is 938,000 for the native-born and 1.94 million for immigrants. Of course, many jobs are created and lost each month, and many workers change jobs each month. But, by examining the number of people working, this report measures the net effect of the churn in employment. Like the outcome of day spent at a casino, it is the end result of losses and gains that matter. And that is what this study reports.

To be sure, the president inherited an immigration system that allows a million permanent immigrants and several hundred thousand guest workers to be admitted each year. But neither President Obama nor Congress has been willing to modify this system. And while there is no question that the labor market was deteriorating before the president took office, as discussed above he has taken a number of steps that have actually increased job competition for native-born workers.

Economists debate the extent of job competition between immigrants and natives. Research by the Federal Reserve Board, the National Bureau Economic Research, and others finds that immigration does displace natives. But there is not a consensus among economists. What we can say is that in occupations where immigrants made the largest gains, there are currently millions of unemployed native-born Americans. The newest data also shows an enormous number of working-age native-born Americans not employed across the labor market. Given these findings, it is unfortunate that both presidential candidates have chosen not to even discuss possible job competition between immigrants and natives.

Data Source: Data for the report comes from the "household survey" (also called the Current Population Survey or CPS). The CPS, the nation's primary source of information on the labor force, asks respondents about their socio-demographic characteristics such as race, education level, citizenship and year of arrival in the United States.

The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research organization. Since its founding in 1985, the Center has pursued a single mission – providing immigration policymakers, the academic community, news media, and concerned citizens with reliable information about the social, economic, environmental, security, and fiscal consequences of legal and illegal immigration into the United States.

CONTACT: Steve Camarota
sac@cis.org, (202) 466-8185

SOURCE Center for Immigration Studies



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