National Data | December Jobs— Immigrant Employment Grew 38% Faster Than Native-born American Employment In Obama’s Last Year
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Jobs data released Friday for the last full month of the Obama Administration saw immigrant displacement of American workers at its fifth-highest level in absolute terms—leaving intact this 96-month-long powerful if paradoxical trend (blacks are particular victims).

Employers added 156,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate rose modestly, from 4.6% to 4.7%. Of course, even that latter apparent negative is construed by many in the MSM as a positive, on the theory that it reflects more people looking for jobs—people who had previously been too discouraged to even look for work. [See Job Growth Continues Slow Upward Trend With 156K New Jobs,   by Connor D. Wolf,, January 6, 2017]

But the “other” employment survey, of households rather than employers, reported a gain of only 63,000 jobs in December – less than half the gain reported by employers.

Our analysis indicates that December was one of those rare months in which all the job gains accrued to persons born in the U.S.

In December:

  • Total employment rose by 63,000, up by 0.04%
  • Native-born employment rose by 267,000, up by 0.21%
  • Foreign-born employment fell by 204,000, down by 0.78%
Overall, Native-born American workers have lost ground to their foreign-born competitors throughout the Obama years, and this trend accelerated significantly over the previous few months. In fact, the displacement of natives by immigrants, which we measure by the extent by which immigrants have gained jobs at a faster pace than natives since January 2009, hit an Obama-Era high in August 2016.

The Household Survey now also reports worker immigrant status (although not legal status). This is brought out 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 American 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 December 2016:

  • Immigrant employment rose by 4.288 million, or by 19.8%. The immigrant employment index rose from 100.0 to 119.8.
  • Native-born American employment rose by 5.602 million, up by 4.7%. The Native-Born American employment index rose from 100.0 to just 104.6.
  • NVDAWDI (the ratio of immigrant to native-born employment growth indexes) rose from 100.0 to 114.5. (100X (119.8/104.6))
During the Obama years, immigrant employment has risen 4.2 times faster than American employment – 19.8% versus 4.7%.

In many unskilled occupations the gap is larger, owing to the disproportionate tendency for immigrant workers to displace Native-born Americans there.

The key variable in the displacement story: the foreign-born share of total U.S. employment. This has risen steadily, albeit erratically, throughout the Obama years:

In February 2009, Barack Obama’s first full month in office, 14.972% of all persons working in the U.S. were foreign-born. In December 2016 17.050% of workers were foreign-born—fifth highest among the 96 months of the Obama Era.

The Obama Era high was set in August 2016, when 17.216% of persons working in this country were immigrants.

Eight of the 10 worst months for native-born American workers during the Obama years, measured by the share of jobs held by immigrants, have occurred in 2016.

The foreign-born share of total employment this December was 2.078 percentage points above the level recorded in February 2009. With total employment now at 152.1 million, this implies that Obama-era immigration may have pushed as many as 3.16 million native-born Americans onto the unemployment rolls.

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. [PDF]

Employment Status by Nativity, Dec. 2015-Dec. 2016
(numbers in 1000s; not seasonally adjusted)
  Dec-15 Dec-16 Change % Change
  Foreign born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 40,737 41,623 886 2.2%
Civilian labor force 26,681 27,062 381 1.4%
     Participation rate (%) 65.5 65.0 -0.5%pts. -0.8%
Employed 25,426 25,881 455 1.8%
Employment/population % 62.4 62.2 -0.2%pts. -0.3%
Unemployed 1,255 1,181 -74 -5.9%
Unemployment rate (%) 4.7 4.4 -0.3%pts. -6.4%
Not in labor force 14,056 14,561 505 3.6%
Native born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 211,199 213,119 1,920 0.9%
Civilian labor force 130,564 131,906 1,342 1.0%
     Participation rate (%) 61.8 61.9 0.1%pts. 0.2%
Employed 124,277 125,917 1,640 1.3%
Employment/population % 58.8 59.1 0.3%pts. 0.5%
Unemployed 6,287 5,989 -298 -4.7%
Unemployment rate (%) 4.8 4.5 -0.3%pts. -6.3%
Not in labor force 80,635 81,213 578 0.7%
Source: BLS, The Employment Situation -December 2016, Table A-7, January 6, 2017.

Over the last 12 months (December 2015 to December 2016):

  • Foreign-born employment rose by 455,000 up 1.8%, while native-born American employment rose 1.640 million, up by 1.3%. IMMIGRANT EMPLOYMENT GREW 38% FASTER THAN NATIVE-BORN AMERICAN EMPLOYMENT IN OBAMA’S LAST FULL YEAR.
  • Unemployment rates dropped by 6.4% for immigrants and 6.3% for natives. But at 4.4%, the unemployment rate for immigrants remains below the comparable rate for native-born Americans (4.5%.) ADVANTAGE IMMIGRANTS
  • The civilian labor force grew 1.4% for immigrants and 1.0% for Native-born Americans. ADVANTAGE IMMIGRANTS
  • The labor force participation rate (LPR) fell by 0.8% for foreign-born workers and rose by 0.2% for native-born Americans. At 65.0%, however, the immigrant LPR remains well above the rate for native-born Americans (61.9%.) LPR measures the percent of the civilian labor force working or looking for work, and is widely viewed as a measure of worker confidence. (ADVANTAGE IMMIGRANTS – ALTHOUGH THE NARROWING OF THE FOREIGN-BORN/NATIVE-BORN LPR GAP MAY SIGNAL TRUMP-RELATED ANXIETY ON THE PART OF IMMIGRANTS, ESPECIALLY ILLEGALS.)
Remember: this is only the tip of the immigration iceberg. The true measure of post-1965 immigration impact on the labor market would include their U.S.-born children. My estimate: factoring in U.S.-born children virtually doubles (+ 80%) immigration’s depression of American wages.

Once again, the population numbers give us pause. This table shows that the working-age immigrant population grew by 886,000 (2.2%) over the past 12 months, while the comparable Native-Born American population rose by only 0.9%.

This trend portends an ever-increasing immigrant (legal and illegal) share of total U.S. employment—dampening job and wage growth for native-born American workers, especially those unskilled workers who compete directly with immigrants in the labor market.

But this was  BT (Before Trump). We expect better from President Trump.

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

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