NATIONAL DATA: Covid Crash Flushes Out Immigrants, Gives Trump Great Opportunity — If Locked In With Immigration Moratorium
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It’s an ill crash that blows no-one any good. The U.S. job market unexpectedly sprang to life in May as employers added 2.5 million jobs and the unemployment rate plummeted. It was, by a gigantic margin, the biggest payroll surprise in history. But even more significantly from’s point of view, the immigrant workforce population has continued to fall, and immigrant displacement of American workers is back down to levels not seen since way back in the Obama Administration. This presents Donald Trump with a great opportunity: he can lock in the recovery’s benefits for the American worker — and stem recent immigration’s damage to the GOP — if he acts on his instincts and imposes an immigration moratorium.

Our analysis of the “other” employment survey, of Households rather than businesses, uncovers an even more robust picture: Total Household employment jumped by 3.8 million in May. If monthly job gains continue at this rate, we will recover all the pandemic-related job losses within 6 months.

In May

  • Immigrants (legal and illegal, government data does not distinguish) gained 425,000 jobs, a 1.9% increase from April.
  • Native-born Americans gained 3.414 million jobs, a 3.1% rise.
  •’s immigrant employment index, set at 100.0 in January 2009, rose to 103.5 from April’s 101.5, a 1.9% gain.
  • The native-born American employment index rose to 95.2 from 92.4 in April, a gain of 3.1%. At 95.2, the American employment index indicates that 4.8% fewer native-born workers held jobs in May than in Obama’s last year in office.

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 108.6 in May, a decline of 1.1% from April’s 109.8.

Not since July 2013 has’s Displacement Index been this low.

Displacement is down partly because immigrants are leaving in record numbers, and because those who 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 May 2020 native-born Americans lost 11.25 million jobs, an 8.9% decline, while immigrants lost 3.59 million, a 13.8% 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 May BLS report shows the immigrant share fell to 16.32%, its lowest level since July 2013. In March 2020 immigrants held 17.06% of all jobs.

Each 1% decline in immigrant employment share represents a transfer of about 1.4 million jobs from immigrants to native-born workers.

May also saw another near record year-over-year decline in the foreign-born working-age population (16 years+). It fell by 912,000 from May 2019—the ninth straight month of year-over-year 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.

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.

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



Employment Status by Nativity, May 2019-May 2020


(numbers in 1000s; not seasonally adjusted)






% Change



Foreign born, 16 years and older


Civilian population






Civilian labor force






   Participation rate (%)



-3.0 pts.









Employment/population (%)












Unemployment rate (%)






Not in labor force







Native born, 16 years and older


Civilian population






Civilian labor force






   Participation rate (%)



-1.9 pts.









Employment/population (%)



-7.2 pts.









Unemployment rate (%)



8.9 pts.



Not in labor force






Source: BLS, The Employment Situation, May 2020. Table A-7, June 5, 2020.











  From May 2019 to May 2020:

  • The native-born American working-age population grew by 2.098 million, a gain of 0.97%; the corresponding immigrant population fell by 912,000— the third largest decline since the government started publishing this figure in 2007. For the ninth consecutive month, the number of working age immigrants declined, year-over-year.
  • Both native-born American and immigrants suffered large job losses; Native-born lost 14.45 million positions, an 11.2% job reduction; foreign-born workers were hit harder, losing 5.2 million jobs, a 19% loss. On a year-over-year basis, both groups did better in May than in April, i.e., their percentage job losses were significantly lower.
  • The immigrant work force (working or looking for work) fell by 1.9 million, a 6.5% decline; the native-born American labor force fell by 2.8 million, a 2.1% drop. Advantage native-born Americans.
  • Unemployment rates skyrocketed for both immigrants and native-born. But the native-born rate rose 254.3% (from 3.5% last year to 12.4%) while the immigrant unemployment rate rose 460.7% (from 2.8% to 15.7%.) Advantage native-born Americans.
  • The data also show that 16.3 million native-born and 4.2 million immigrants were unemployed in May, but over the last year the number of unemployed immigrants rose by 426.8%, while the number of native-born jobless rose by “only” 246.9%. Advantage native-born Americans.
  • Labor force Participation Rates declined for both immigrants and native-born Americans, with the immigrant LPR falling by 4.6% vs. a 3.0% decline in the native-born American LPR. Immigrant LPRs remain above that of natives, although, unlike the case in good times, this factoid reflects an immigrant labor force that is contracting three-times faster than that of native-born Americans rather than increased confidence in the job market.

President Trump displayed his usual humility: “This is better than a V,” he proclaimed. “This is a rocket ship!” “We’ll go back to having the greatest economy anywhere in the world,” he said from the Rose Garden [Unexpected Drop in U.S. Unemployment Helps Markets Rally, NYT, June 5, 2020 Updated June 8, 2020].

Warning to DT: The benefits of that “greatest economy anywhere in the world” will go to immigrants from everywhere in the world, as in the rebound from the 2008 Great Recession, unless they are channeled to American workers via an immigration moratorium NOW.

More evidence: illegal immigration on the southern border has started to pick up:

To be fair, our chart puts some alarmist headlines ( Illegal immigration rose nearly 40% amid coronavirus reopenings, Washington Times, June 15, 2020) in perspective. Border crossings are still very low in absolute terms.

But it’s all the more reason for a moratorium on legal immigration — and, of course, a wall.


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

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