NATIONAL DATA: Coronavirus Kills Jobs—And Displacement! Immigrant Population FALLS For 7th Straight Month! IMMIGRATION MORATORIUM NOW!
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Earlier, by Ed Rubenstein: National Data: Pre-Corona, Immigrant Population DOWN For SIXTH Straight Month—But Wage Growth Slowed, Displacement Up

The longest stretch of job creation in American history came to a crashing halt last month. The Labor Department reported a 700,001 decline in payrolls. It could have been worse—and probably was: The March survey was conducted in the first two weeks of the month, just before all Hell broke loose. But embedded in the disaster are nuggets of good news for American workers: their displacement by immigrant workers (legal and illegal—the data doesn’t distinguish) is slackening. And the immigrant workforce  continues to contract.

Most economists had expected more modest job losses, figuring that the big layoffs wouldn’t take place until later in the month. But employers moved quickly to shut down.  The U.S. seems to be plunging into a deep recession, with unemployment reaching 20% by some forecasts. The full scope of the damage will not be apparent until May 8th, when employment data for the month of April is scheduled for release.

The Household Survey of Employment, on which our monthly displacement analysis rests, reported a loss of 3 million jobs for the month. But our analysis of the survey shows the immigrant share of employment fell to 17.06%, its lowest level since 2017. Previously, in February immigrants held 17.5% of all jobs.

Each 1% decline in immigrant employment share represents a transfer of 1.6 million jobs from immigrants to native-born workers.

In March:

  • Immigrants lost 1.25 million jobs, a 4.5% decline
  • Native-born Americans lost 1.74 million jobs, a 1.3% decline.
  •’s immigrant employment index, set at 100.0 in January 2009, fell to 122.8 from February’s 128.6, a 4.5% loss.
  • The native-born American employment index fell to 107.1 from February’s 108.9, a 1.3% loss.
  • 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 to 114.6 from 118.4, a fall of 3.2%. Not since 2017 has displacement been this low. It had been moving sideways in a narrow range since mid-2019.

Lost amid the Covid-19 cacophony: Finally, thanks to his (relatively) hard line on immigration, Donald Trump now presides over a labor market where native-born American job growth during his tenure exceeds that of immigrants. From January 2017 through March 2020 native-born American workers gained 3.096 million jobs, an increase of 2.5%, while immigrants gained 595,000 jobs, a 2.3% rise.

In one (admittedly horrific) month. the immigrant/native-born job growth gap shifted from 3.3 percentage points in favor of immigrants to 0.2 percentage points in favor of native-born.

Looking at a longer time frame, displacement is still with us:

Our displacement chart above shows Native-born American workers lost ground to their foreign-born competitors throughout the Obama years. This accelerated significantly in the months leading up to the 2016 election. After a wild struggle, Trump has reversed the displacement deterioration of his own first years. But he has not reversed the Obama-era damage.

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

March also saw a record year-over-year decline in the foreign-born working-age population (16 years+). It fell by 1.23 million from March 2019—the seventh 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.

Simultaneously, apprehensions on the Southwest border, a proxy for illegal immigration, continue to fall after the dramatic peak of May 2019.

The March report shows that on two important metrics—working-age population and employment—native-born American workers outpaced immigrants by comfortable margins over the past 12 months.

Employment Status by Nativity, March 2019-March 2020

(numbers in 1000s; not seasonally adjusted)





% Change


Foreign born, 16 years and older

Civilian population





Civilian labor force





     Participation rate (%)



-0.6 pts.







Employment/population (%)



-1.2 pts.







Unemployment rate (%)



0.9 pts.


Not in labor force






Native born, 16 years and older

Civilian population





Civilian labor force





     Participation rate (%)



-0.3 pts.







Employment/population (%)



-0.7 pts.







Unemployment rate (%)



0.6 pts.


Not in labor force





Source: BLS, The Employment Situation ,March 2020. Table A-7, April 3, 2020.


From March 2019 to March 2020:

  • The native-born American working-age population grew by 2.460 million, a gain of 2.8%; the corresponding immigrant population fell by 1.239 million— the largest decline since the government started publishing this figure in 2007. For the seventh consecutive month, the number of working age immigrants declinedyear-over-year.
  • Native-born workers saw a miniscule job gain of 23,000, or 0.02%; foreign-born workers were clobbered, losing 1.297 million jobs, a 4.7% loss. Americans did “relatively” well, mainly 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 1.074 million, a 3.7% decline; the native-born labor force jumped by 788,000, a 0.6% gain. Advantage native-born Americans.
  • Unemployment rates skyrocketed for both immigrants and native-born Americans. But the native-born rate rose 15.4% (from 3.9% to 4.5%) while immigrant unemployment rose 23.1% (from 3.9% to 4.8.) Advantage native-born Americans.
  • Labor-force participation rates declined for both immigrants and native-born, with the immigrant rate falling twice as much (in percentage terms) as that of native-born. Immigrant participation rates remain well above that of natives, though this factoid reflects the sharp decline in immigrant working-age population rather than their increased confidence in the job market.

The data also show that 6.03 million native-born and 1.34 million immigrants were unemployed in March, but over the last year the number of unemployed immigrants rose by 19.95%, while native-born joblessness rose  14.53%.

It’s clear that the pandemic is having a larger impact—on the economy and our society—than was thought possible even a week ago. This raises the likelihood that Congress will have to provide support beyond to the multi-trillion dollar package passed last week.

Our suggestion to Congress: include an immigration moratorium, at least until American employment has recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

In the 2008-9 Great Recession, was essentially alone in making this suggestion. But this time there’s progress—the moratorium proposal was recently tweeted out by TurningPointUSA’s eminently respectable Charlie Kirk.

At all costs, we must avoid repeating the 2009-9 disaster, when immigration rose throughout the Great Recession, with the result that American workers did not benefit from the recovery for many years.

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

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