Despite Job Growth, Native Employment Still Below 2007

Center for Immigration Studies, December 19, 2014

President Obama recently announced plans to give legal status and work permits to millions of illegal immigrants. The U.S. continues to admit over one million permanent legal immigrants a year, and many members of Congress and the president continue to support efforts to increase immigration further.

Yet data publicly available on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website shows that as of last month, there are still 1.5 million fewer native-born Americans working than in November 2007, and the number of natives not in the labor force (neither working nor looking for work) continues to increase. In contrast, two million more immigrants (legal and illegal) are working.

“It is truly remarkable that since the 2007 recession, what net employment gains there have been went entirely to immigrants, while the number of native-born Americans working remains well below 2007 levels,” said Steven Camarota, Center for Immigration Studies Director of Research and author of a CIS report presenting the BLS data. “This raises the question of whether it makes sense to continue to admit so many legal immigrants as well as to allow most illegal immigrants to stay.”

The CIS report is here.

All the data for the report can be retrieved by anyone with an internet connection, from Table A-7 at the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site:

Additional findings:

• The BLS reports that 23.1 million adult (16-plus) immigrants (legal and illegal) were working in November 2007 and 25.1 million were working in November of this year–a two million increase. For natives, 124.01 million were working in November 2007 compared to 122.56 million in November 2014–a 1.46 million decrease.

• Thus BLS data indicates that what employment growth there has been since 2007 has all gone to immigrants, even though natives accounted for 69 percent of the growth in the +16 population.

• The number of immigrants working returned to pre-recession levels by the middle of 2012, and has continued to climb. But the number of natives working remains almost 1.5 million below the November 2007 level.

• However, even as job growth has increased in the last two years (November 2012 to November 2014), 45 percent of employment growth has still gone to immigrants, though they comprise only 17 percent of the labor force.

• The number of natives officially unemployed (looking for work in the prior four weeks) has declined in recent years. But the number of natives not in the labor force (neither working nor looking for work) continues to grow.

• The number of adult natives 16-plus not in the labor force actually increased by 693,000 over the last year, November 2013 to November of 2014.

• Compared to November 2007, the number of adult natives not in the labor force is 11.1 million larger in November of this year.

• In total, there were 79.1 million adult natives and 13.5 million adult immigrants not in the labor force in November 2014. There were an additional 8.6 million immigrant and native adults officially unemployed.

• The percentage of adult natives in the labor force (the participation rate) did not improve at all in the last year.

• All of the information in BLS Table A-7 indicates there is no labor shortage in the United States, even as many members of Congress and the president continue to support efforts to increase the level of immigration, such as Senate bill S.744 that passed in the Senate last year. This bill would have roughly doubled the number of immigrants allowed into the country from one million annually to two million.

• It will take many years of sustained job growth just to absorb the enormous number of people, primarily native-born, who are currently not working and return the country to the labor force participation rate of 2007. If we continue to allow in new immigration at the current pace or choose to increase the immigration level, it will be even more difficult for the native-born to make back the ground lost in the labor market.


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