NATIONAL DATA: April Jobs Data Show Pandemic Has Stalled, Reversed, American Displacement, Dispossession. But Immigration Moratorium Vital To Secure Rebound’s Gains
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The U.S. economy lost 21.5 million payroll jobs in April as the unemployment rose to 14.7%, the worst since the Great Depression. But immigrants (legal and illegal—federal data doesn’t distinguish) lost most ground. Now more than ever, the immigration moratorium hinted at by President Trump is essential to ensure that the benefits of recovery accrue to American workers,

Our analysis of the “other” employment survey, of Households rather than businesses, finds total employment shrank by 22.4 million in April, the largest monthly decline since the government began publishing official job statistics at the end of World War II.

Note, however, that native-born American workers fared relatively well—i.e., they did not suffer quite as much—as their foreign-born counterparts.

In April:

  • Immigrants lost 4.61 million jobs, a 17.3% decline from March.
  • Native-born Americans lost 17.76 million jobs, a 13.7% decline.
  •’s immigrant employment index, set at 100.0 in January 2009, fell to 101.5 from March’s 122.8, a 17.3% loss.
  • The native-born American employment index fell to its lowest level since we began tracking it. At 92.4, the April American employment index indicates a 7.6% reduction in native-born employment since Obama’s last month in office (January 2009). This means that the slow, grinding employment gains native-born workers have eked out since the end of the Great Recession were wiped out entirely in April.
  • Accordingly, the New VDARE American Worker Displacement Index (NVDAWDI), our name for the ratio of immigrant to native-born American employment growth indexes since Jan. 2009, fell to109.8 in April, a decline of 4.2% from March’s 114.6.

Not since July 2014 has’s Displacement Index been this low.

Displacement is down, largely because immigrants are leaving in record numbers, and those that remain are losing jobs at even faster rates than native-born Americans.

A bittersweet benefit of  Covid-19 catastrophe: In percentage terms, job losses suffered by native-born workers during Trump’s tenure are now less than those endured by immigrants. From January 2017 through April 2020 native-born Americans lost 14.67 million jobs, a 11.6% decline, while immigrants lost 4.01 million, a 15.4% reduction.

Thanks, in part, to his (relatively) hard line on immigration, expressed basically via administrative measures, the Trump years saw a labor market where native-born Americans lost relatively fewer jobs than immigrants.

This is not quite what Trump supporters had in mind in November 2016. But it’s something.

Another way of measuring displacement: the immigrant share of total employment. Our analysis of the April BLS report shows the immigrant share fell to 16.47%, its lowest level since July 2014. Back in March, immigrants held 17.06% of all jobs.

Each 1% decline in immigrant employment share represents a transfer of 1.3 million jobs from immigrants to native-born workers.

April also saw another near record year-over-year decline in the foreign-born working-age population (16 years+). It fell by 1.23 million from April 2019—the eighth straight month of decline. This contraction follows a protracted slowing of immigrant workforce growth that can be traced back to early 2018.

This current immigrant workforce decline is more than double that seen in the 2008 Great Recession. Back then immigrants were leaving at the rate of 300,000 to 400,000 a month, year-over-year. And it exceeds the “Trump Effect” seen in the early months of the administration, when illegals apparently self-deported out of fear.

Note that this process was underway well before the pandemic hit.

It has to be counted as a significant Trump achievement—a “Trump Triumph," as we label it on our featured chart.

Simultaneously, apprehensions on the Southwest Border, a proxy for illegal immigration, continue to fall after the dramatic peak of May 2019. In April 16,789 incoming migrants were stopped and sent home by Border Patrol agents. That represents a decline of more than 50% from March.

A detailed picture of how American workers have fared vis-a-vis immigrants over the past year is published in Table A-7 of the monthly BLS Report:

Employment Status by Nativity, April 2019-April 2020

(numbers in 1000s; not seasonally adjusted)





% Change


Foreign born, 16 years and older

Civilian population





Civilian labor force





     Participation rate (%)



-3.5 pts.







Employment/population (%)



-11.8 pts.







Unemployment rate (%)



13.8 pts.


Not in labor force






Native-born, 16 years and older

Civilian population





Civilian labor force





     Participation rate (%)



-2.5 pts.







Employment/population (%)



-8.8 pts.







Unemployment rate (%)



10.6 pts.


Not in labor force





Source: BLS, The Employment Situation, April 2020. Table A-7, May 8, 2020.



From April 2019 to April 2020:

  • The native-born American working-age population grew by 2.226 million, a gain of 1.0%; the corresponding immigrant population fell by 1.023 million— the second largest decline since the government started publishing this figure in 2007. For the eighth consecutive month, the number of working age immigrants declined, year-over-year.
  • Both native-born American and immigrants suffered massive job losses; native-born lost 17.68 million positions, a net loss of 13.7%; foreign-born workers were clobbered, losing 5.7 million jobs, a 20.6% loss. Americans did “relatively” well, perhaps because they are not as concentrated in industries (like hotels and retail) that shed workers even before the quarantine economy took hold.
  • The immigrant labor force (working or looking for work) fell by 2.2 million, a 7.6% decline; the native-born American labor force fell by 4.1 million, a 3.1% drop. Advantage native-born Americans.
  • Unemployment rates skyrocketed for both immigrants and native-born. But the native-born rate rose 311.8% (from 3.4% to 14.0%) while the immigrant unemployment rate rose 511.1% (from 2.7% to 16.5%). Advantage native-born Americans.
  • The data also show that 18.2 million native-born and 4.3 million immigrants were unemployed in April, but over the last year the number of unemployed immigrants rose by a whopping 455.1%, while the number of native-born jobless rose by “only” 294.5%. Advantage native-born Americans.
  • Labor-force participation rates declined for both immigrants and native-born, with the immigrant LPR falling by 5.4% vs. a 4.0% decline in the native-born rate. Immigrant LPRs remain above that of natives, though unlike the case in good times, this factoid now  reflects an immigrant labor force that is contracting more than twice as fast as that of natives rather than their increased confidence in the job market.

The monthly job figures are preliminary, and always subject to revision. Never more so than this April. For one thing, the pandemic made it difficult for BLS personnel to conduct employment surveys. Call centers were closed, in person interviews suspended, and households and businesses less likely to respond to queries.

“Under these conditions there is not one number about the labor market that is going to tell you everything you want to know,” said Erica Groshen, a Cornell University economist who led the BLS during the Obama administration.

Nevertheless, a “V” shaped recovery remains quite possible. After all, the current meltdown is caused solely by the Federal government’s stay at home orders, which can—and hopefully will—be reversed as conditions warrant.

The big question: Will Federal policy once again deprive American workers of the fruits of recovery?

The excessive reliance on unemployment insurance as a stimulus in this pandemic makes this outcome more likely. The latest congressional package raises unemployment benefits by $600 a week. That is more than many laid off workers made while employed. The bill also raises the period laid off workers are eligible for benefits. Plus, it would waive eligibility requirements. Little things like the requirement that recipients actually look for work.

Domestic labor market rigidities have always boosted immigration, as employers seek the easy way out. The classic case: the influx of Hispanic immigrants to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, despite the presence of an underemployed pool of American labor, largely black.

The Covid-19 pandemic has struck a heavy blow at many aspects of American life. But it has also stalled, and even reversed, the Election of a New People through immigration policy. This gain must be locked in, with an immigration moratorium.

Otherwise, any economic rebound could bring immigration roaring back.

Edwin S. Rubenstein (email him) is President of ESR Research Economic Consultants

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