National Data | September Jobs: Amazing Record Month…for Immigrants Displacing Americans
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Happy Days Are Here Again!—the old FDR theme song might be appropriate background music for all the happy talk accompanying the latest job report out today (October 3).. The economy created a healthy 248,000 jobs in September; unemployment rate fell to 5.9%—the lowest reading since July 2008; August’s anemic job number was revised upward.

Job gains were across the board: professional and business services, construction, retail, health care. Even government.

Eric Lascelles, chief economist at RBC Global Asset Management, articulated the consensus view of his professional peers: “This is a very muscular report. It’s showing powerful job creation, no matter how one cares to slice it.”[Hiring rebounds in September; unemployment rate falls to 5.9 percent, By Ylan Q. Mui, October 3, 2014]

Well, I guess we take a unique slice of economic life here at Unique because (with one or two very recent exceptions) mainstream economists and journalists simply avert their eyes to the overarching reality of American worker displacement by immigrants (to say nothing of their effect on wages).

From a distance, the Household Survey confirms the good news reported in the more widely cited survey of business establishments. In fact, at 232,000 the September Household Survey found job creation chugging along at 15-times the anemic rate it reported for August.

But the Devil is in the Politically Incorrect details.

In September:

  • Total employment rose by 232,000 or by 0.16%
  • Native-born American employment fell by 137,000 or by 0.11%
  • Foreign-born employment rose by 369,000, or by 1.50%
Over the past two months 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%.

Never during the Obama years have American workers been as whiplashed by immigrants as they were in August and September.

The gap between immigrant and native-born job growth pushed our New American Worker Displacement Index (NVDAWDI) to another record high. The August/September bloodbath is clear in the following chart:


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 September 2014:

  • Foreign-born employment rose by 3.314 million, or by 15.3%. The immigrant employment index rose from 100.0 to 115.3.
  • Native-born American employment rose by 1.065 million or by 0.9%. The native-born employment index rose from 100.0 to 100.9.
  • NVDAWDI (the ratio of immigrant to native-born American employment growth indexes) rose from 100.0 to 114.3 (100X(115.3/100.9)
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.

In August of this year the immigrant share of total employment was a record 16.80%. In September it hit another record: 17.03%.

The immigrant share of total employment has risen steadily, albeit erratically, since the start of the Obama years. Over the past two months what had been a glacial trend turned torrential:


No, the right hand spike isn’t a slip of the pen. It reflects BLS data.

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 September 2014 the immigrant share of total employment rose from 16.35% to 17.03%—a gain of 0.68 percentage points. That implies that as many as 993,000 native-born Americans may be out of work in this period due to immigration.

Once again data by race and ethnicity seem to confirm the discomfort felt by native-born workers. While unemployment rates for Whites and Blacks both declined in September by 0.2 percentage points—the same as the national rate. The unemployment rate for Hispanics, a disproportionately immigrant group, fell by 0.6 percentage points, to 6.9%.

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, Sept. 2013-Sept. 2014(numbers in 1000s; not seasonally adjusted)
  Sep-13 Sep-14 Change % Change
Foreign born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 38,854 39,860 1,006 2.6%
Civilian labor force 25,713 26,238 525 2.0%
Participation rate (%) 66.2% 65.8% -0.4% -0.6%
Employed 24,041 25,019 978 4.1%
Employment/population % 61.9% 62.8% 0.9% 1.5%
Unemployed 1,671 1,218 -453 -27.1%
Unemployment rate (%) 6.5% 4.6% -1.9% -29.2%
Not in labor force 13,142 13,622 480 3.7%
Native born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 207,314 208,587 1,273 0.6%
Civilian labor force 129,823 129,666 -157 -0.1%
Participation rate (%) 62.6% 62.2% -0.4% -0.6%
Employed 120,610 121,922 1,312 1.1%
Employment/population % 58.2% 58.5% 0.3% 0.5%
Unemployed 9,213 7,744 -1,469 -15.9%
Unemployment rate (%) 7.1% 6.0% -1.1% -15.5%
Not in labor force 77,491 78,921 1,490 1.8%
Source: BLS, The Employment Situation—September 2014, Table A-7, October 3, 2014. PDF

Over the past 12 months:

  • Immigrant employment rose by 978,000 positions, a 4.1% increase; native-born American employment rose by 1,312,000, a 1.1% increase.
  • The native-born American unemployment rate fell from 7.1% to 6.0%, a drop of 15.5%; The foreign-born unemployment rate fell from 6.5% to 4.6%, a drop of 29.2%.
  • Labor force participation rates fell for both native-born Americans and immigrants, but the immigrant LPR (65.8%) remained significantly above the native-born LPR (62.2%).
  • The working age population of immigrants rose by 1,006,000, up by 2.6%. Comparable population growth for the native-born: 1,273,000, up by 0.6%.
Over the past two months foreign-born employment (legal and illegal) has increased by more than a year’s worth of legal immigration. These folks may have already been here, waiting for jobs to open up. On the other hand, a resurgent job market may have triggered illegal immigration beyond anything seen before.

Stay tuned.

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


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