Report: All Tennessee's Employment Growth Since 2000 Went to Immigrants

Since 2000, Tennessee’s net employment growth has gone to immigrants, despite the fact that native-born Americans accounted for 60 percent of the state’s working-age population growth, a new report from a limited immigration group reveals. 

According to a new Center for Immigration Studies analysis of government employment data released Monday, the number of working-age immigrants holding a job in Tennessee increased by 94,000 from 2000 to 2014. However, the number of working-age Americans in the state holding a job declined 47,000.

In its report, CIS points out that both of Tennessee’s senators, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Bob Corker (R-TN), voted for the comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate last summer, which would have vastly increased the number of foreign workers in the United States.

“It’s remarkable that any political leader in Tennessee would support legislation that would increase the number of foreign workers allowed into the country, given the relatively weak job growth in the state and the large share of working-age people not working,” Steven Camarota, CIS’s director of research, said Monday.

Alexander’s major primary opponent, state Rep. Joe Carr, has made immigration a centerpiece of his campaign to unseat the sitting senator. The Tennessee Republican primary is this week, and Alexander remains a favorite to keep his seat.

The CIS report, however, reveals how foreign labor has already been an impediment to the job-landscape the state’s American-born population faces. 

The report reveals that just 66 percent of working-age Americans in Tennessee were employed during the first quarter of 2014, compared to 72 percent of working-age Americans in the first quarter of 2000. Further, there were 300,000 more Americans not working the first quarter of this year compared to 2000. 

According to CIS, the report reveals that there is “is no general labor shortage in the state,” meaning “it is very difficult to justify the large increases in foreign workers (skilled and unskilled) allowed into the country by a bill like S.744, which many of Tennessee’s politicians support.”

Additionally, the group argued that the report shows increased immigration does not expand job opportunities for native-born Americans. 

“Tennessee’s working-age immigrant population grew 176 percent from 2000 to 2014, one of the highest rates of any state in the nation,” the report reads. “Yet, the number of natives working in 2014 was actually lower than in 2000. This undermines the argument that immigration on balance increases job opportunities for natives.”


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