Study: U.S. Net Employment Gains Since 2000 Have Gone to Immigrants

Study: U.S. Net Employment Gains Since 2000 Have Gone to Immigrants

A new study of government data has found that all of the net domestic gain in employment over the last 13 years in the United States has gone to foreign-born (legal and illegal) workers. 

The same study found that the number of working-age native-born Americans has declined by 1.3 million over the same time period and the changes have impacted native-born Americans of every race, gender, education level and age, particularly men, blacks, and Americans of Hispanic descent. 

Steven Camarota and Karen Zeigler, of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), found that between the first quarter of 2000 and the first quarter of 2003, the working-age native-born population increased by 16.4 million and accounted for two-thirds of the overall growth in the “working-age population (16 to 65).” Yet, there were 1.3 fewer native-born Americans who were gainfully employed in the first quarter of 2013 than were in the first quarter of 2000. 

On the other hand, the number of working-age immigrants (legal and illegal) increased by 8.8 million and the number of working-age immigrants who were gainfully employed increased by 5.3 million during the same time period. “Immigrant” is defined in the study as “those who are not U.S. citizens at birth,” which includes “naturalized citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, temporary workers, foreign students, and illegal immigrants.”

The results of this study, “Immigrant Gains and Native Losses In the Job Market, 2000 to 2013,” come after the Congressional Budget Office determined two weeks ago that the Senate’s immigration bill, which would flood the labor force with immigrant labor, would decrease wages and raise the unemployment rate. The Senate bill would in fact award more green cards in the next ten years than the country has awarded over the past forty years in addition to granting at the very least 13 million illegal immigrants pathways to citizenship. 

CIS thoroughly examined census data and the results of the “household survey” (also called The Current Population Survey or CPS), which not only asks “people at their place of residence if they are working” but also “takes into account education level, age, citizenship, and year of arrival in the United States.”

According to the report, if working age is defined as “25 to 54,” which is “often seen by economists and demographers as the core of the work force,” the numbers are more bleak. In 2000, working-age native-born Americans 25 to 54 years of age  made up 82.4 percent of the workforce. The number declined to 80.5% in 2007 and 76% in 2013, which means the declined occurred before the financial crisis of 2008. The only age group that has seen an improvement in their employment situation Americans over the age of 60.

CIS found that over the last 13 years, the “number of adult natives with no more than high school education not working is 4.9 million larger in 2013 than in 2000” while the “number with some college not working is up 6.8 million.” Even native-born Americans with at least a bachelor’s degree who are not working is up 3.8 million from 2000.

In addition, the study found that the “fall in the share of working-age natives holding a job has been most pronounced for men, blacks, and Hispanics.”

Proponents of the comprehensive immigration reform have asserted immigration labor is needed because there are too many jobs Americans simply will not do. 

CIS, though, found that of the “the 472 civilian occupations defined by the Department of Commerce, only six are majority immigrant (legal and illegal),” and those six occupations account for just one percent of the total U.S. workforce. Jobs thought to be “overwhelmingly immigrant (legal and illegal) are in fact majority native-born.” CIS found that, for instance, 51 percent of maids and housekeepers, 63 percent of butchers and meat processors, 64 percent of grounds maintenance workers, 66 percent of construction laborers, and 73 percent of janitors employed are U.S.-born.

“The idea that immigrants only do jobs American do not want is mistaken,” the authors write. “It is simply not the case that there are jobs that Americans do not do.”

The authors also write that because of this bleak reality that faces working-class Americans, proponents of immigration reform are mistaken in believing that importing millions of more foreign-born workers would be good policy for the country. 

“The last 13 years, or even the last five years, make clear that large-scale immigration can go hand-in-hand with weak job growth and declining rates of work among the native-born,” the authors write. “Given the employment situation in the country, the dramatic increases in legal immigration contemplated by the Gang of Eight immigration bill seem out of touch with the realities of the U.S. labor market.”


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