Foreign-born workers capture two-thirds of new U.S. jobs

Nov 1, 2012

A Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) report highlights that two-thirds of President Obama’s net job increases primarily go to legal immigrants. While CIS recognized illegal immigration has decreased, legal immigration remains high.

The new comprehensive job analysis shows the U.S. does not have a general labor shortage and questions the wisdom of accepting more than one million legal immigrants each year.

“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,” said Steve Camarota, the Director of CIS.

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. (President Obama offered work authorization to an estimated 2 million illegal immigrants who arrived in the country before age 16 – nearly 200,000 of who 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.)
  • 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.

Camarota points out that Obama inherited an immigration system that permits a million legal immigrants and several hundred thousand guest workers to legally work in the country each year. However, neither Congress nor the President has made an effort to reform America’s dated and unworkable immigration problem. “And while there is no question that the labor market was deteriorating before the president took office, he has taken a number of steps that have actually increased job competition for native-born workers,” Camarota explained.

Research completed by the Federal Reserve Board and the National Bureau Economic Research concludes that increased immigration does displace native workers. However, economists suggest that non-native workers tend to work in sectors that require a specific skill, like engineering. But, Camarota says that most occupations where immigrants made the largest gains, there are millions of unemployed Americans.

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© Copyright 2012 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

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