National Data: October Jobs—Immigrants Gain Jobs At 2.5-Times Americans’ Rate
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After two months of mediocre job growth, American companies finally reported a robust 271,000 rise in payrolls last month. The unemployment rate dropped to 5%, and average hourly earnings bounced up by 0.4%, putting to rest fears that a recession might be in our immediate future. But immigrants continue to elbow aside Americans in the job market—right at the point when GOP Speaker Paul Ryan wants to bring in even more.

Further, most workers will need bigger wage and salary increases for some time to make up for lost ground after a long period of wage stagnation. Although wages have grown 2.5% over the past 12 months, at this stage in economic recoveries annual wage growth usually reaches 3% to 4%. Workers haven’t seen those kinds of pay hikes since the end of the Great Recession.

We have long attributed the pay stagnation to the displacement of native-born American workers by immigrants willing to work for less. The Household Employment Survey confirms that this insidious trend is still with us in October.

In October:

  • Total employment rose 320,000, up by 0.2%
  • Native-born American employment rose by 198,000, up by 0.2%
  • Foreign-born employment rose by 122,000 – up by 0.5%
Immigrant employment grew 0.5% in October—two and one-half times the 0.2% growth in native-born American employment. Still, October was better, relatively speaking, than August or September, when native-born Americans lost actually jobs and immigrants gained them.

Since July:

  • Total employment has risen 280,000, up by 0.2%
  • Native-born American employment has declined by 175,000, down by 0.1%
  • Foreign-born employment rose by 455,000 – up by 1.9%
If these numbers do not look familiar, it is because the Main Stream Media ignore them. The MSM folks focus on the Payroll Employment Survey, which does not collect information on the nativity of workers—perhaps because companies do not ask, and do not want to know. Many feign ignorance on the number of illegal aliens in their employ.

American workers have lost ground to their 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 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. (This isn’t because we don’t like President Obama—national-origin numbers weren’t available before that, so we used Hispanic employment as a proxy).

From January 2009 to October 2015:

  • Foreign-born employment rose by 3.373 million, up 15.6%. The immigrant employment index rose from 100.0 to 115.6.
  • Native-born American employment rose by 3.526 million or by 2.9%. The native-born American employment index rose from 100.0 to 102.9.
  • NVDAWDI (the ratio of immigrant to native-born employment growth indexes) rose from 100.0 to 112.3. (100X(115.6/102.9)
Immigrant employment rose 5.4-times faster than native-born American employment – 15.6% versus 2.9%—during the Obama years. 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, 14.97% of all persons working in the U.S. were foreign-born. In October 2015 the foreign-born share was 16.78%. That is up from 16.73% in September, 16.70% in August, and 16.50% in July.

In only 10 of the 82 months of Obama’s Presidency have immigrant workers grabbed a greater share of U.S. employment than they did last month.

Overall, October’s immigrant employment share was 1.81 percentage points above the level recorded at the start of Mr. Obama’s administration.

With October employment at 149.1 million, each one percentage point rise in the foreign-born share translates to as many as 1.491 million displaced native-born workers. This means that Obama-era immigration may have pushed as many as 2.70 million (1.81 times 1.491 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:


Employment Status by Nativity, Oct. 2014-Oct. 2015

(numbers in 1000s; not seasonally adjusted)

  Oct-14 Oct-15 Change % Change
  Foreign born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 39,696 40,074 378 1.0%
Civilian labor force 26,364 26,267 -97 -0.4%
     Participation rate (%) 66.4% 65.5% -0.9% -1.4%
Employed 24,984 25,120 136 0.5%
Employment/population ratio 62.9% 62.7% -0.2% -0.3%
Unemployed 1,380 1,147 -233 -16.9%
Unemployment rate (%) 5.2% 4.4% -0.8% -15.4%
Not in labor force 13,332 13,807 475 3.6%
Native born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 208,960 211,468 2,508 1.2%
Civilian labor force 130,252 131,047 795 0.6%
     Participation rate (%) 62.3% 62.0% -0.3% -0.5%
Employed 122,952 124,597 1,645 1.3%
Employment/population ratio 58.8% 58.9% 0.1% 0.2%
Unemployed 7,300 6,450 -850 -11.6%
Unemployment rate (%) 5.6% 4.9% -0.7% -12.5%
Not in labor force 78,709 80,421 1,712 2.2%
Source: BLS, The Employment Situation - October   2015, Table A-7, November 6, 2015. [PDF]

From October 2014 to October 2015:
  • Labor-force participation rates (LFPs), a sign of worker confidence, fell for both native-born American and foreign-born workers; at 65.5%, the immigrant LFP is still well above that Americans, 58.9%. Advantage immigrants
  • Unemployment rates fell for both native-born Americans and immigrants. Immigrants enjoyed steeper declines, and a significantly lower unemployment rate in October 2015 – 4.4% versus 4.9% for native-born Americans. Advantage immigrants
  • The number of foreign-born unemployed dropped by 233,000 - or by 16.9%; corresponding figures for native-born Americans: 850,000 or 11.6%. Advantage immigrants
It is a rare 12 months when native-born Americans gain jobs at a faster rate than immigrants, but that is what we’ve had: Since last October foreign-born employment rose by 0.5% while native-born American employment rose by 1.3%.

This may reflect the extraordinary growth reported in professional and business service employment – white collar positions requiring at least a BA and specialized skills. By comparison, factory jobs and other blue collar sectors, where immigrants are overrepresented, trod water over the past few months.

Footnote: at, we’ve been monitoring immigrant displacement of American workers since 2001. Every once in a while the issue surfaces briefly in the MSM, and last month we noted a couple of such signs. This month, Daniel Horowitz, who has been much praised at, picked up the issue: The Truth Behind the Numbers: Foreign-born Jobs Up, American-born Jobs Unchanged [Conservative Review, November 6, 2015). My comment on Horowitz’ method: he uses unemployment as a negative proxy for employment. Problem is, unemployment falls when people leave the labor force. So the fall in unemployment that he notes may not exactly reflect what he says it does.

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

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