National Data | February Jobs—Americans Triumphant, Immigrants Lose, in Trump’s First Full Month—And Illegal Influx May Have Reversed
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Needless to say, the Trump Administration gloated about the jobs growth revealed in Friday’s employment data and the MSM went to work to downplay it (Sean Spicer’s appalling answer about economic data shows how far we’ve lowered the bar for Trump, by Matthew Yglesias, VOX, March 10 2017) and if possible change the subject (Sean Spicer’s Quick Twitter Reaction to Jobs Report May Break a Rule, by Patricia Cohen, New York Times, March 10, 2017).’s unique analysis: whatever else, the January numbers do show a downturn, possibly decisive, in immigrant displacement of American workers—and suggest that the illegal surge that characterized Obama’s last year may have reversed.

In fact, it wasn’t even close. With the wall still a metaphor, E-Verify not universal, and even Trump’s hard ban on entries from some Muslim countries sabotaged (temporarily) by the courts, many of us wondered whether the first month of his tenure would be materially different from the 96 months of the past eight years. We can now exhale. Household Survey Jobs data released Friday revealed one of the biggest U-turns in the insidious displacement native-born American workers by their foreign-born immigrant competitors since January 2009—the month Barack Obama became President.

As usual, the MSM focused on a different employment survey, the one that does not ask nativity or ethnicity of workers. The payroll survey found a respectable 235,000 new jobs were created in February, a continuation of the steady albeit unspectacular growth of the past few years.

But the “other” employment survey, of households rather than employers, reported a gain of 447,000 jobs in February—nearly twice the gain reported by employers. More importantly, our analysis of Household Survey data indicates a stunning reversal in American worker displacement:

In February:

  • Total employment rose by 447,000, up by 0.29%
  • Native-born American employment rose by 574,000, up by 0.46%
  • Foreign-born immigrant employment fell by 127,000, down by 0.49%
Foreign-born workers held 16.95% of all jobs in February, down from 17.09% in January. Not since May 2016 has the immigrant share of jobs been below 17%.

We have a long way to go, of course. Native-born American workers lost ground to their foreign-born competitors throughout the Obama years, and this trend accelerated significantly in the months leading up to the election. The displacement of native-born Americans 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.

While February 2017 may mark an inflection point, it does not undo the damage of the prior eight years. 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 February 2017:

  • Immigrant employment rose by 4.213 million, or by 19.5%. The immigrant employment index rose from 100.0 to 119.5.
  • Native-born American employment rose by 6.094 million, up by 5.1%. The Native-Born American employment index rose from 100.0 to 105.1.
  • NVDAWDI (the ratio of immigrant to native-born employment growth indexes) rose from 100.0 to 113.7(100X (119.5/105.1))
During the 96 months of Barack Obama’s tenure, immigrant employment rose 4.2 times faster than native-born American employment—19.8% versus 4.7%.

During the first full month of the Trump administration, immigrant employment fell by 0.49%, while native-born employment rose by 0.46%.

The key variable in the displacement story: the foreign-born share of total U.S. employment. This rose steadily, albeit erratically, throughout the Obama years, before dropping off President Trump’s first month.

In February 2009, Barack Obama’s first full month in office, 14.97% of all persons working in the U.S. were foreign-born. In his last full month, December 2016, 17.05% of workers were foreign-born. This implies that Obama-era immigration pushed as many as 3.16 million native-born Americans onto the unemployment rolls.

By contrast, the immigrant share of employment in Trump’s first month (16.95%) was 0.1% points below the share in Obama’s last month. This implies that Trump’s immigration policies may have already put 152,500 native-born workers back to work.

The claw-back has a long way to go, but it is in play.

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, Feb.2016-Feb. 2017
(numbers in 1000s; not seasonally adjusted)
  Feb-16 Feb-17 Change % Change
  Foreign born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 40,960 41,137 177 0.4%
Civilian labor force 26,602 27,049 447 1.7%
     Participation rate (%) 64.9 65.8 0.9 %pts. 1.4%
Employed 25,391 25,701 310 1.2%
Employment/population % 62.0 62.5 0.5 %pts. 0.8%
Unemployed 1,211 1,348 137 11.3%
Unemployment rate (%) 4.6 5.0 0.4 % pts. 8.7%
Not in labor force 14,358 14,088 -270 -1.9%
  Native born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 211,618 213,108 1,490 0.7%
Civilian labor force 131,677 132,432 755 0.6%
     Participation rate (%) 62.2 62.1 -0.1% 0.0%
Employed 124,670 125,893 1,223 1.0%
Employment/population % 58.9 59.1 0.2% 0.0%
Unemployed 7,007 6,539 -468 -6.7%
Unemployment rate (%) 5.3 4.9 -0.4% -0.1%
Not in labor force 79,941 80,676 735 0.9%
Source: BLS, The Employment Situation - February 2017, Table A-7, March 10, 2017.

Over the last 12 months (February 2016 to February 2017):

  • Foreign-born employment rose by 310,000, up 1.2%, while native-born employment rose 1.223 million, up 1.0%. Immigrant employment grew 20% faster than native-born employment.
  • The labor force participation rate (LPR)-a sign of worker confidence- rose for immigrants but fell for native-born workers. Advantage immigrants (for how long?)
  • "Unemployment rate of native-born workers fell, while that of immigrants rose. A year ago native-born workers were unemployed at greater rates than immigrants; this year their unemployment rate is lower. Advantage native-born.
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.

In addition, the population numbers also give us reason for optimism. The above table shows that the working-age immigrant population grew by a mere 177,000, or 0.4%, over the past 12 months. That is a fraction of the 1 million per year figure commonly cited for legal immigration of all ages—another sharp change, because since January 2016 immigrant workforce growth regularly exceeded estimated legal inflow, evidence of the surge of illegal immigration that occurred in Obama’s last year.

Could this sharp change signal a post-Trump exodus of illegals? Stay tuned.

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


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