National Data: TREMENDOUS Trump Triumph—January Data Show Continued Immigrant Population Collapse
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Incredibly, President Trump’s stealth immigration triumph continues—the January job report, released last Friday [PDF], shows once again that the immigrant workforce population is falling. And immigrant displacement of American workers, well down from its peaks, continues to flatline.

January marked the fifth straight month of absolute decline in the foreign-born working-age population (16 years+). It dropped by 547,000, or 1.27% compared the same month last year—the same absolute and percent changes as in December. Both months exceeded year-over-year drops for November and October, which saw declines of 1.00% and 0.99%, respectively, although they lag October’s 1.68% shrinkage.

This five-month decline follows a protracted slowing in the immigrant workforce growth rate that can be traced back to early 2018.

This current immigrant workforce decline now actually exceeds that seen in the 2008 Great Recession. Back then immigrants were leaving at the rate of 300,000 to 400,000 a month, year-over-year. Since September, they have bailed at 400,000 to 725,000 a month. And back in 2008-9, the outflux was driven by economic malaise. Now the economy is strong.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the economy added 225,000 payroll jobs in January. With modest upward revisions to the prior two months’ data, this brought the three-month average to 211,000 jobs. While the unemployment rate edged higher to 3.6 percent, the employment-to-population ratio rose 0.2 percentage points to 61.2 percent, a new high for the recovery.

And our analysis of the Household Survey of Employment, on which our monthly displacement analysis rests, shows a modest 89,000 employment loss for the month, with native-born Americans losing positions, albeit marginally, while immigrants gained them.

In January 2020:

  • Immigrants gained 88,000 jobs, an increase of 0.3%
  • Native-born Americans lost 177,000 jobs, a 0.1% decline.
  •’s immigrant employment index, set at 100.0 in January 2009, rose to 126.4 from December’s , a 0.3% gain.
  • The Native-born American employment index fell slightly to 108.9 from November’s 109.1, a 0.1% loss.
  • The New VDARE American Worker Displacement Index (NVDAWDI), our name for the ratio of immigrant to Native-born American employment growth indexes since Jan. 2009, rose slightly, to 116.0 from December’s 115.5, a rise of 0.5%. It’s been moving sideways in a narrow range since mid-2019,

While January was only a fair month for native-born American workers, 2019 was a great year for them – as seen in the chart below.

The displacement chart shows Native-born American workers lost ground to their foreign-born competitors throughout the Obama years. This accelerated significantly in the months leading up to the 2016 election. Trump has not yet reversed the Obama damage, but he does seem to have gotten the displacement deterioration in his own first years under control.

From January 2017 through January 2020 Trump presided over a labor market in which immigrants gained 1.376 million jobs, a 5.3% increase, while native-born Americans gained 5.257 million, a rise of 4.2%. In percentage terms, the immigrant/native-born gap in job creation under Trump —1.1 percentage points in favor of immigrants—is comparatively low. As recently as April it was 7.1 percentage points, with immigrant employment rising 8.9% from the start of his administration, while native-born American employment gained 1.8%.

Another way of looking at American worker displacement: The immigrant share of total U.S. employment. A smaller immigrant share denotes less displacement of native-born American workers:

Since hitting 17.8% in February 2019, the immigrant share of total employment has drifted downward. May through July were particularly good – native-born Americans gained jobs each month, while immigrants lost them.

More good news: data in the January report show that on three important metrics—working-age population, employment, and labor force participation rate—native-born American workers outpaced immigrants by comfortable margins over the past 12 months:

Employment Status by Nativity, Jan.2019-Jan.2020

(numbers in 1000s; not seasonally adjusted)





% Change


Foreign born, 16 years and older

Civilian population





Civilian labor force





     Participation rate (%)










Employment/population (%)










Unemployment rate (%)





Not in labor force






Native born, 16 years and older

Civilian population





Civilian labor force





     Participation rate (%)










Employment/population (%)










Unemployment rate (%)





Not in labor force





Source: BLS, The Employment Situation December 2019, Table A-7, February 7, 2020. PDF


From January 2019 to January 2020:

  • The native-born American working-age population grew by 1.808 million, a gain of 0.84%; the corresponding immigrant population fell by 547,000—a 1.3% loss. For the fifth consecutive month, the number of working age immigrants declinedyear-over-year.
  • Native-born American employment rose a whopping 2.345 million, up 1.8%; Foreign-born employment fell 315,000, off by 1.15%. Another comeback month for American workers; as recently as last June immigrants gained jobs nearly three times as fast, year-over-year.
  • The immigrant labor force (working or looking for work) fell by 497,000, a 1.73% decline; the native-born labor force jumped by 1.89 million, a 1.42% gain. Advantage native-born Americans.
  • Both the immigrant and native-born unemployment rates (seasonally unadjusted) fell to 4.0%. In percentage terms, the native-born rate fell by 9.1% versus 11.1% fall for immigrants.  Advantage immigrants—though once again this “positive” was made possible by a decline in the immigrant labor force. By contrast, the unemployment rate for native-born Americans fell despite another healthy rise in the native-born labor force.
  • The labor-force participation rate for native-born Americans rose by 0.3 % points, versus a 0.4 % point decline for immigrants. Another month of increased confidence (vis a vis the same month last year) on the part of American workers.

The data also show that 5.38 million native-born and 1.12 million immigrants were unemployed in January, but over the last year unemployment numbers have declined for both groups. Immigrants actually enjoyed a larger percentage decline (13.9%) than native-born Americans (7.8%.)

How is this happening when Trump has not passed any legislation reducing immigration and when a recent record illegal surge (which reversed the panicky post-election “Trump Effect” outflow) is only just receding?

Apparently through relentless administrative action—for example Trump’s Muslim ban (upheld by the Supreme Court) and ever more thorough adjudication by USCIS. Note also that Trump has sharply reduced the “refugee” intake, from Obama’s peak of 85,000 to a proposed 18,000 for fiscal 2020.. There have been disapproving discussions of this phenomenon in the Leftist media where it has been described as the “invisible wall” : Trump Got His Wall, After All,  by Rachel Morris, Huffington Post, Nov 24, 2019.

Another example of administrative action: After a January 27th ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Department of Homeland Security can now implement the new “public charge” rule of inadmissibility [Supreme Court Allows Trump To Enforce ‘Public Charge’ Immigration Rule, by Susannah Luthi, Politico, January 27, 2020]. DHS announced that the rule will go into effect on February 24, 2020. 

In the bad old days “public charge” was defined narrowly, counting only cash benefits. This conveniently left out big ticket transfer payments like Medicaid, housing subsidies and food stamps. ( pointed out that the “public charge” rule had been sabotaged by bureaucrats  back in 2001.

But the new definition of “public charge” is comprehensive. The new rule grants DHS officers vast discretion to determine whether the applicant might become a “public charge” at any point in the future. They would be empowered to collect reams of personal financial information and reject any applicant whose income is lower than 250% of the poverty line, even if that person is employed or has a financial sponsor.

And it gets better. The new regulations give officials leeway to ban legal immigrants based on an evaluation of 20 different factors, ranging from public benefits to English language proficiency [A federal court just blocked Trump’s attempt to quietly cut legal immigration by up to 65%, The policy would have made the goals of immigration restrictionists a reality, by Nicole Narea and Alex Ward, Vox, Nov 27, 2019. Now out of date, thanks to SCOTUS!]

All but the highest-earning immigrants would be kept out – good news for struggling native-born Americans.

They need it. The discouraging news in the January report: anemic wage growth. Despite a hot job market, wage growth shows little evidence of accelerating. The increase over the last year was 3.1%. This compares with a peak pace of 3.5% hit last February. The annualized rate for the last three months (November, December, January) compared with the prior three months (August, September, October) is just 2.8%.

Only when U.S. employers, long addicted to a steady stream of cheap immigrant labor, finally acknowledge that the good old days are over, will President Trump’s “Blue Collar Boom” really begin.

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


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