Millions of U.S. workers staying home, while immigrants take the low-wage jobs

You hear it often: America has a shortage of workers. The facts, however, show fewer and fewer working age U.S. citizens are employed. Instead they stay home, not able to compete with immigrants often willing to accept bare minimum wages or work “under the table.”

Analysis  of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey (CPS) shows that while the official unemployment rate for both the U.S.-born and immigrants has fallen significantly, it remains higher than before Covid,  the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) reported recently.

But perhaps most important, the labor force participation rate — the share of working-age (16-64) people holding a job or looking for one — remains near historic lows. Those not in the labor force are not included in the official unemployment rate.

In the fourth quarter of 2021, only 73.2% of the working-age (16-64) U.S.-born were in the labor force compared to 77.3% in 2000, the report showed.

If the labor force participation had remained the same as it was in 2000, then nearly seven million more U.S.-born Americans would have been in the labor force in 2021.

Immigrants (legal and illegal together) in the CPS survey are often referred to as the “foreign-born”, and include all persons who were not U.S. citizens at birth — primarily naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents, long-term temporary visitors (e.g. guest workers), and so-called undocumented immigrants.

Among the labor bureau’s findings (you can download official tables with link below):

    • The unemployment rate for the U.S.-born (ages 16-plus) was 4% in the 4th quarter, higher than the 3.5% in the 4th quarter of 2019 before Covid-19. Among immigrants (legal and illegal together), the rate was 3.9%, higher than the 2.8% in the 4th quarter of 2019. (Tables 7 and 8)
    • The total number unemployed in the 4th quarter of 2021 was six million — five million U.S.-born and one million immigrants. (Tables 1 and 7)
    • In addition to the six million unemployed, 54.2 million working-age (16-64) residents were not in the labor force — 45.3 million U.S.-born and 8.9 million immigrants. (Tables 1 and 7)
    • The total number of (16-64) immigrants and U.S.-born not working — unemployed or not in the labor force — in the 4th quarter of 2021 was 60.6 million. Of this number, 69% were adults without a bachelor’s degree.
    • The share of the U.S.-born (16-64) in the labor force was only 73.2% in the 4th quarter of 2021, down from 74.1% in 2019 before Covid-19 hit, and 75.2% in 2007 before the Great Recession, and 77.3% at the peak in 2000. (Tables 1, 7, 8, 9, and 10)
    • If the same share of working-age U.S.-born (16-64) were in the labor force in 2021 as in 2000, then 6.9 million more people would be in the labor force. Meanwhile, since 2000, legal and illegal immigration has added 8.8 million workers. (based on Tables 7 and 10)
    • In the 4th quarter of 2021, only 70.2% U.S.-born adults (18-64) without a college degree were in the labor force, compared to 71.4% in 2019, 74.3% in 2007, and 76.4% in 2000. (Tables 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10)
    • Among U.S.-born Black American adults (18-64) without a bachelor’s degree, only 66.3%  were in the labor force in the 4th quarter of 2021, compared to 71% of U.S.-born whites and 72% of U.S.-born Hispanics. (Table 7).

Download Figures and Tables Here.

The facts on employment and immigration do not matter to the mainstream media, which caters to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other advocates of unlimited immigration to drive down wages for Americans and increase profits for capitalists.

C. Rampell
C. Rampell

One example is The Washington Post’s Princeton-legacy Catherine Rampell, who argued last week that more, not fewer, illegal immigrants should be President Joseph Biden’s goal to “fill critical labor market shortages.”

Her plutocrat-pandering op-ed was titled “Democrats Are Missing the Bigger Immigration Picture,”

The Chamber and Rampell ignore the result of adding mostly unskilled, under-educated migrants with limited English skills results in more job competition, and more unemployment, particularly for Americans without college degrees.

Rampell claims that “there remains huge demand for foreign-born workers to contribute to the U.S. economy.” The result of this is “the many businesses that rely on these workers are losing critical staff, making inflation worse.”

“They will only help our pocketbooks … and, by extension, Democrats’ political fortunes,” she added.

That reminds me of the pickpocket, who told police his goal in life was to lighten the load in other people’s pockets, just so they wouldn’t get so tired walking.

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