National Data |October Jobs: Is Immigrant Displacement Of American Workers Accelerating?
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October’s employment data, released Friday, confirmed that the job market is recovering, at a seemingly accelerating rate, from the devastation wrought by the Great Recession. Unfortunately, immigrant displacement of American workers, a relentless constant throughout the Obama years, seems also to be accelerating—the sharply accentuated upward trend line visible in August and September, while reduced, remains essentially intact.

The payroll employment survey found 214,000 positions added last month. That was the 9th month in a row of 200,000+ job growth, a feat last accomplished in 1994. (However, although Main Stream Media commentary never mentions it, monthly job creation must be set against approximately 90,000 new workers who arrive every month under current policy—i.e. even without the Amnesty/ Immigration Surge proposed in Gang of Eight-type legislation).

The unemployment rate fell again, to 5.8%, as more than half a million people found work according to the Household Survey. Unusually, immigrant employment fell—by a modest 0.35%—so all the job gains accrued to native-born Americans. But this pause is not enough to reverse the new, sharply-increased trend.

In October:

  • Total employment rose by 683,000 or by 0.47%
  • Native-born American employment rose by 770,000 or by 0.47%
  • Foreign-born employment fell by 87,000, or by 0.35%
The long term-trend, of course, is intact. Since July foreign-born employment has increased by 1,028,000—up a whopping 4.3%—while the number of native-born American workers has fallen by 780,000, or by 0.6%.

Worse, never during the Obama years have American workers been as whiplashed by immigrants as they were over the past three months. The displacement pushed our New American Worker Displacement Index (NVDAWDI) to record highs:


Native-born American employment growth is the blue 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 for both immigrants and native-born Americans in January 2009, and tracks their employment growth since then.

From January 2009 to October 2014:

  • Foreign-born employment rose by 3.227 million, or by 14.9%. The immigrant employment index rose from 100.0 to 114.9.
  • Native-born American employment rose by 1.835 million or by 1.5%. The native-born employment index rose from 100.0 to 101.5.
  • NVDAWDI (the ratio of immigrant to native-born American employment growth indexes) rose from 100.0 to 113.2 (100X(114.9/101.5)
The key variable for calculating American worker displacement is the foreign-born share of total U.S. employment. In February 2009—Obama’s first full month in office—14.9% of all individuals working in the U.S. were foreign-born, according to that month’s Household employment survey.

The immigrant share of total employment has risen steadily, albeit erratically, since the start of the Obama years.

But over the past three months, what had been a glacial trend turned torrential:

immigrant share of total employment

In August of this year the immigrant share of total employment hit a record 16.80%. In September it hit another record: 17.03%. In October the foreign-born share slipped slightly, to 16.88%—still the second-highest immigrant employment rate of the Obama years:

With total U.S. employment running at about 146 million, every one-tenth of one percent increase in employment share translates to 146,000 more workers. From July 2014 to October 2014 the immigrant share of total employment rose from 16.35% to 17.88%—a gain of 1.53 percentage points.

Implication: as many as 2.22 million native-born Americans may be out of work in this period due to immigration.

A more detailed snapshot of American worker displacement over the past year is seen in Household Survey data published in the monthly job report:

Employment Status by Nativity, Oct. 2013-Oct. 2014(numbers in 1000s; not seasonally adjusted)
  Oct-13 Oct-14 Change % Change
Foreign born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 38,816 39,696 880 2.3%
Civilian labor force 25,507 26,364 857 3.4%
Participation rate (%) 65.7% 66.4% 0.7% 1.1%
Employed 23,874 24,984 1,110 4.6%
Employment/population % 61.5% 62.9% 1.4% 2.3%
Unemployed 1,633 1,380 -253 -15.5%
Unemployment rate (%) 6.4% 5.2% -1.2% -18.8%
Not in labor force 13,308 13,332 24 0.2%
Native born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 207,565 208,960 1,395 0.7%
Civilian labor force 129,410 130,252 842 0.7%
Participation rate (%) 62.3% 62.3% 0.0% 0.0%
Employed 120,270 122,952 2,682 2.2%
Employment/population % 57.9% 58.8% 0.9% 1.6%
Unemployed 9,140 7,300 -1,840 -20.1%
Unemployment rate (%) 7.1% 5.6% -1.5% -21.1%
Not in labor force 78,155 78,709 554 0.7%
Source: BLS, The Employment Situation—October 2014, Table A-7, November 7, 2014. PDF
Over the past 12 months:

  • Immigrant employment rose by 1,110,000 positions, a 4.6% increase; native-born American employment rose by 2,682,000, a 2.2% increase.
  • The labor force participation rate—a sign of confidence—rose for foreign-born workers, and remained constant for Americans. At 66.4%, the immigrant LPR is significantly above the native-born American LPR (62.3%).
  • The number of working age immigrants rose by 880,000, up by 2.3%. By comparison, the native-born American working-age population rose by just 0.7%.
Since July foreign-born employment (legal and illegal) increased by about a year’s worth of legal immigration. These new immigrant hires may have already been here, waiting for jobs to open up.

Or a resurgent job market may have triggered an influx of illegals beyond anything seen before.

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


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