National Data | September Jobs—Trump Effect? Immigrant Population Falls AGAIN, but American Worker Displacement UP. Something’s Got To Give.
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Trump Effect? For the second consecutive month the immigrant working-age population (legal and illegal) has declined from the same month of the prior year.

There were 143,000 fewer working-age immigrants in the country in September 2017 than in September 2016 according to the Labor Department Payroll report released Friday October 6—a decline of 0.34%. This follows a 138,000, or 0.33%, decline in August.

Year-over-year declines of this magnitude last occurred in 2009, the nadir of the Great Recession. In contrast, year-over-year immigrant work force population increases in the closing months of the Obama Regime were running around 1.5 million, far in excess of projected legal immigration and persistent evidence that an unreported illegal surge was underway.

In the months immediately after Donald Trump’s election, the growth of the immigrant workforce and immigrant displacement of American workers and seemed to be reversing so consistently that we were surprised when April’s job data suddenly undid all the gains. We wondered if it was statistical noise or a seasonal artifact that would soon reverse. That reversal had established itself by July The September jobs report offers more evidence that the Americanization of the American workforce under President Trump is real, and accelerating:

Any decline in the foreign-born working age population during a period of fairly robust employment growth is an extraordinary development. Job growth has always attracted illegal border crossers—at least it did before Trump.

But there’s bad news as well as good: Immigrant job gains in the month of September outpaced native-born American gains by a factor of more than 2-to-1. Foreign-born employment rose 2.85% above its August level, while native-born employment increased by 1.21%. In other words, paradoxically, immigrant displacement of American workers seems to be increasing while the immigrant stock has started to decline.

Of course, immigrants will accept lower wages and are more mobile than American workers, who have homes and family ties. And while troubling, this factoid must be put in context. It is from the “other” jobs report, the Household Employment Survey, which reported a wildly implausible employment gain of 902,000 for a month in which two storms decimated wide swaths on Texas and Florida. (The Payroll Employment Survey, by contrast, reports a September job loss of 33,000.)

Only the former survey disaggregates total employment into immigrant and native-born components. We dutifully calculate our worker displacement index using Household Survey figures that are, at least for this month, obviously flawed.

In September:

  • Total employment rose 906,000, up by 1.49%
  • Native-born employment fell 674,000, up by 1.21%
  • Foreign-born employment rose 232,000, up 2.85%
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 Trump’s first eight months (January to September) immigrant employment rose by 742,000—a 2.85% increase—while native-born gained 1,522,000 jobs—an increase of 1.21%.

So while native-worker displacement continues under Trump, its growth is a fraction of what we experienced under Barack Obama. September’s bizarre Household Survey figures makes an assessment of where we stand today difficult.

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. 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 September 2017:

  • Immigrant employment rose by 5.082 million, or by 23.5%. The immigrant employment index rose from 100.0 to 123.5.
  • Native-born American employment rose by 7.042 million, up by 5.8%. The native-Born American employment index rose from 100.0 to 105.8.
  • NVDAWDI (the ratio of immigrant to native-born employment growth indexes) rose from 100.0 to 116.7. (100X (123.5/105.8))
The foreign-born share of total U.S. employment rose steadily, albeit erratically, throughout the Obama years. It fell sharply in the months after the 2016 election, but roared back to Obama-era levels in the spring. In September the immigrant share of total employment was at a record high 17.32%—a reflection of the fact that immigrants displaced Americans even through their numbers are falling:

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.

The immigrant share of employment in September (17.32%) was 0.27 percentage points above the share in December. This implies that resistance to Trump’s immigration agenda may have put as many as 41,700 native-born Americans out of work.

By contrast, the mere threat of a Trump immigration crackdown appeared, by our estimates, to have put 168,000 native-born American workers back to work in April. This was actually quite plausible, given the early hysteria about Trump in the MSM. Some immigrants, legal and illegal, may have decided to leave. Others, above all illegals, may have decided not to come after all.

A detailed snapshot of American worker displacement over the past year is available in the Employment Status of the Civilian Population by Nativity table published in the monthly BLS Report. [PDF]

Employment Status by Nativity, Sept. 2016-Sept. 2017
(numbers in 1000s; not seasonally adjusted)
Sep-16 Sep-17 Change % Change
Foreign born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 41,785 41,642 -143 -0.34%
Civilian labor force 27,345 27,846 501 1.83%
  Participation rate (%) 65.4 66.9 1.5 %pts. 2.29%
Employed 26,146 26,754 608 2.33%
Employment/population % 62.6 64.2 1.6 %pts. 2.56%
Unemployed 1,199 1,092 -107 -8.92%
Unemployment rate (%) 4.4 3.9 -0.5 %pts. -11.36%
Not in labor force 14,441 13,796 -645 -4.47%
Native born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 212,306 213,920 1,614 0.76%
Civilian labor force 132,291 133,203 912 0.69%
  Participation rate (%) 62.3 62.3 0.0 %pts. 0.00%
Employed 125,832 127,739 1,907 1.52%
Employment/population % 59.3 59.7 0.4 %pts. 0.67%
Unemployed 6,460 5,464 -996 -15.42%
Unemployment rate (%) 4.9 4.1 -0.8 %pts. -16.33%
Not in labor force 80,015 80,717 702 0.88%
Source: BLS, The Employment Situation- September 2017, Table A-7, October 6, 2017.
Over the last 12 months (September 2016 to September 2017):
  • The foreign-born labor force grew 2.7-times faster than the native-born American labor force: 1.83% versus 0.69%. ADVANTAGE IMMIGRANTS
  • Immigrant employment rose 1.5-times faster than native-born American employment: 2.33% versus 1.52%. ADVANTAGE IMMIGRANTS
  • The labor-force participation rate (LPR), a sign of worker confidence, rose by 1.6 points for immigrants and was unchanged for native-born Americans. At 66.9%, the immigrant LPR in September was considerably above the native-born rate (62.3%.) ADVANTAGE IMMIGRANTS
  • The number of unemployed Americans fell by 996,000—down 15.4%; the number of unemployed immigrants fell 107,000—down 8.9%. ADVANTAGE AMERICANS, although much of this “advantage” may be due to older natives retiring, or younger, discouraged, natives leaving the labor force from lack of suitable job opportunities.
The September take-away: Native-born American workers continue to lose ground to their foreign-born counterparts in employment, labor force participation, and the employed share of the population. But these loses, however painful, may be short-lived. Both trends cannot exist together indefinitely. Something has to give. The post-election stall in foreign-born population growth hastens the day when U.S. employers are forced to go-native—and maybe pay them more.

It is remarkable that this “Trump Effect” has been achieved without any legislation (yet). Imagine what impact legislation could have—for good or ill, if the Cheap Labor Lobby can regain control of the GOP.

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

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