Posted on May 16, 2019

Foreign-Born Workers Make Up Highest Percentage of U.S. Employment Since 1996

Eric Morath, Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2019


Foreign-born workers — those not born in the U.S. nor have U.S. citizens as parents — accounted for 17.5% of all U.S. employees in 2018, up from 17.1% in 2017, the Labor Department said Thursday. The category includes people born abroad who are now U.S. citizens, immigrants and those in the U.S. temporarily.


There were 27.2 million U.S. workers who were born outside the country last year, up 3.7% from a year earlier. That was an acceleration from 1.8% growth in 2017, and the fastest rate of foreign-born employment growth since 2012.

{snip} The number of foreign people in the U.S. labor force — including workers and those seeking jobs — rose 17.2% in 2018 from 2008. The native-born labor force increased by 2.8% in that time.

There has been no change to that broader trend since President Trump took office in January 2017, said Jeanne Batalova, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington.

“It takes years for people to invest to come to the United States to join their families or for employment reasons,” she said. “They’re not going to be dissuaded from that.”

There has been a slowdown in enrollment of foreign students in U.S. colleges, a potential source of future workers, she said. That may reflect students’ concerns about their ability to obtain future work permits, but also reflects that Canada, Europe and China have become more aggressive in recruiting foreign students.

The foreign-born category include legally admitted immigrants, refugees, temporary workers, students and undocumented immigrants. The data doesn’t separately identify people in these categories.


{snip} In 2018, the labor-force participation rate of the foreign born was 65.7%, the Labor Department said. The participation rate for the native born was 62.3%.

The average unemployment rate for foreign-born people was 3.5% in 2018, down from 4.1% in 2017. The jobless rate of native-born people was 4.0% in 2018, down from 4.4% in 2017.