National Data| April Jobs—Immigrant Job Share a Record For Any April During Obama Years
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Companies added 160,000 jobs in April, the smallest gain since September. Job creation had already slowed to an average of 200,000 over the last three months, down from a five-year high of 282,000 a month in the fourth quarter.

The Mainstream Media consensus: another ho-hum, albeit mildly disappointing report.

But the really bad employment news last month wasn’t in the headline numbers, but in the “other” employment survey, of households rather than businesses.

Household survey employment fell by 316,000 in April – the largest monthly job bleed since a whopping 445,000 loss in June 2011. April was also one of those rare months when immigrants bore the entire brunt of a job decline:

In April:

  • Total Household Survey employment fell by 316,000, down by 0.2%
  • Native-born American employment rose by 76,000, up by 0.1%
  • Foreign-born immigrant employment fell by 392,000, down by 1.5%
Immigrants lost 392,000 positions in April, their largest monthly decline since they gave back 681,000 in December 2009. Not that native-born Americans did that well: a 76,000 job gain for a group that accounts for 6,276,000 of the country's unemployed is pathetic.

The bottom line: the long term trend of immigrants displacing natives in the labor force is intact. Native-born American workers have lost ground to their foreign-born immigrant competitors throughout the Obama years. We highlight this trend in our New American Worker Displacement Index (NVDAWDI) graphic:

Native-born American employment growth is represented by the black line, immigrant employment growth is in pink, and NVAWDI—the ratio of immigrant to native-born job growth—is in yellow. The index starts at 100.0 in January 2009 for both immigrants and native-born Americans, and tracks their employment growth since then.

From January 2009 through April 2016:

  • Immigrant employment rose by 3.801 million, or by 17.6%. The immigrant employment index rose from 100.0 to 117.6.
  • Native-born American employment rose by 4.982 million or by 4.1%. The native-born American employment index rose from 100.0 to 104.1
  • NVDAWDI (the ratio of immigrant to native-born employment growth indexes) rose from 100.0 to 112.9. (100X (117.6/104.1))
During the Obama years immigrant employment has risen 4.3 times faster than American employment – 17.6% versus 4.1%. In many unskilled occupations the job growth gap is far larger, owing to the disproportionate number of foreign-born workers.

The foreign-born share of total U.S. employment has risen steadily, albeit erratically, throughout the Obama years:

In February 2009, President Obama’s first full month in office, 14.972% of all persons working in the U.S. were foreign-born. In April 2016 the foreign-born share was 16.853%. While that is down from the Obama-era record (17.077%, reached only last month) it still ranks 11th highest among the 88 months of Mr. Obama’s Administration.

The data BLS publishes on native-born and immigrant employment are not seasonally adjusted. For this reason, comparisons with April of prior years may be more indicative of the real trend underlying the foreign-born share of total employment.

If that is indeed the case, then April 2016 marked a new record for the immigrants displacing natives in the workforce.

  • April 2009: 15.471%
  • April 2010: 15.661%
  • April 2011: 15.567%
  • April 2012: 15.929%
  • April 2013: 16.206%
  • April 2014: 16.268%
  • April 2015: 16.703%
  • April 2016: 16.853%
So while April 2016 may not be the “cruelest” month this year (March was worse), it was the cruelest April since the start of the Obama Administration. In each of the last six Aprils the immigrant share of total U.S. employment has increased.

April’s immigrant employment share was 1.382 percentage points above the level recorded in April 2009, the first April of Mr. Obama’s administration. With total employment now at 151 million, this implies that Obama-era immigration may have pushed as many as 2.09 million native-born Americans onto the unemployment rolls since his first April seven years ago.

A detailed snapshot of American worker displacement over the past year is seen in the “Employment Status of the civilian population by nativity” table published in the monthly BLS report:


Employment Status by Nativity, April 2015-April 2016
(numbers in 1000s; not seasonally adjusted)
  Apr-15 Apr-16 Change % Change
  Foreign born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 39,997 40,797 800 2.0%
Civilian labor force 26,103 26,596 493 1.9%
     Participation rate (%) 65.3% 65.2% -0.1% -0.2%
Employed 24,819 25,460 641 2.6%
Employment/population % 62.1% 62.4% 0.3% 0.5%
Unemployed 1,284 1,137 -147 -11.4%
Unemployment rate (%) 4.9% 4.3% -0.6% -12.2%
Not in labor force 13,895 14,200 305 2.2%
Native born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 210,268 212,172 1,904 0.9%
Civilian labor force 130,451 131,891 1,440 1.1%
     Participation rate (%) 62.0% 62.2% -0.2% -0.3%
Employed 123,769 125,615 1,846 1.5%
Employment/population % 58.9% 59.2% -0.3% -0.5%
Unemployed 6,683 6,276 -407 -6.1%
Unemployment rate (%) 5.1% 4.8% -0.3% -5.9%
Not in labor force 79,817 80,281 464 0.6%
Source: BLS, The Employment Situation - April 2016, Table A-7, May 6, 2016.
From April 2015 to April 2016:
  • Foreign-born employment rose by 641,000, a 2.6% increase, while native-born American employment rose by 1,846,000 – up by 1.5%. Immigrant employment grew 73% faster than native-born American employment
  • The number of unemployed immigrants fell by 11.4%, while native-born American unemployed fell by 6.1%. Advantage immigrants (big).
  • Unemployment rates dropped 12.2% for immigrants and 5.9% for native-born. Advantage immigrants
  • Labor-force participation (LFP) rates, a sign of worker confidence, fell for both immigrants and native-born Americans. At 65.2%. The immigrant LPR remains well above that of Americans (62.2 %.)
The immigrant/native-born gap in population growth persists, albeit at lower rate than in March. Over the past 12 months (April 2015 to April 2016) the foreign-born working-age population increased by 2.0%, more than twice the 0.9% rise in the comparable native-born population.

By comparison, the prior 12 months (March 2015 to March 2016) saw a 3-to-1 population growth rate “advantage” for immigrants.

Could this signal the beginning of a “Trump effect”—immigrants staying away rather than risking deportation? Stay tuned.

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

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