National Data | December Jobs: Hispanics And Immigrants Are The Only Winners. And an Immigration Moratorium Could Have Cut Unemployment In Half.

From a distance i.e. from the Main Stream Media’s viewpoint, the December employment report released Friday [PDF] shows an economy continuing to expand at a gradual pace. The 155,000 jobs added by U.S. employers were enough to keep up with growth in the labor force (although millions are still unemployed or are too discouraged to even look for work).

But the “other” employment survey, of households rather than employers, which also reports immigration and ethnicity, provides troubling details. Household employment crept up by a minuscule 28,000 in December—with the gains redounding exclusively to Hispanics.

In December 2012:

  • Total Household survey employment rose 28,000 (+0.02 percent)
  • non-Hispanic employment fell by 58,000 (-0.05 percent)
  • Hispanic employment rose by 86,000 (+0.39 percent)

Over the past 12 months the number of employed Hispanics grew by 7.2%, or 8.5-times the 0.85% growth reported in non-Hispanic employment.

Put differently, Hispanics are 16% of the labor force but they received 60% of the jobs created in the past year.

Hispanic employment is, of course, a proxy for our primary interest: the displacement of native-born workers by immigrants. Since January 2009—the month Barack Obama took office—data on foreign- and native-born employment has been included in the monthly employment report. Coincidence or not, this means we can piece together the monthly points to track the long-term impact of Mr. Obama’s policies:

Obama's  Legacy

The blue line tracks native-born job growth; the pink line immigrant job growth; while the yellow line is the ratio of immigrant to native job growth, which we call the New VDARE.com American Worker Displacement Index (NVDAWDI).

NVAWDI rose in December, indicating that immigrants received a larger share of the jobs created that month than in November. In fact, our analysis of Household Survey data finds that immigrants garnered the entire 28,000 rise in December employment while native employment remained unchanged.

 Conclusion: immigration explains as much as one-third of December’s rise in Hispanic employment.

Resurgent American worker displacement is also confirmed by comparing the seasonally unadjusted figures for December 2012 and December 2011:

Employment Status by Nativity,

Dec. 2011-Dec. 2012

(numbers in 1000s; not seasonally adjusted)

 

Dec-11

Dec-12

Change

% Change

Foreign born, 16 years and older

Civilian population

36,851

37,999

1,148

3.1%

Civilian labor force

24,836

25,248

412

1.7%

  Participation rate (%)

67.4%

66.4%

-1.0%

-1.5%

Employed

22,647

23,216

569

2.5%

Employment/population %

61.5%

61.1%

-0.4%

-0.7%

Unemployed

2,189

2,032

-157

-7.2%

  Unemployment rate (%)

8.8%

8.0%

-0.8%

-9.1%

Not in labor force

12,015

12,751

736

6.1%

 

Native born, 16 years and older

Civilian population

203,733

206,351

2,618

1.3%

Civilian labor force

128,536

129,656

1,120

0.9%

  Participation rate (%)

63.1%

62.8%

-0.3%

-0.5%

Employed

118,033

119,844

1,811

1.5%

Employment/population %

57.9%

58.1%

0.2%

0.3%

Unemployed

10,503

9,812

-691

-6.6%

  Unemployment rate (%)

8.2%

7.6%

-0.6%

-7.3%

Not in labor force

75,197

76,695

1,498

2.0%

Source: BLS, "The Employment Situation—December 2012," January 4, 2013. Table A-7. [PDF]

 

From December 2011 to December 2012:

  • Immigrants gained 569,000 jobs, a 2.5% increase; native-born workers gained 1,811,000 positions, a 1.5% increase. ADVANTAGE IMMIGRANTS
  • The immigrant unemployment rate fell by 0.8 percentage points – or by 9.1%; the corresponding rate for the native-born fell by 0.6 percentage points – a 7.3% decline. ADVANTAGE IMMIGRANTS, HOWEVER
  • The labor force participation rate – a measure of worker confidence – fell for both immigrants and the native-born, with immigrants suffering a larger decline (1.0 % points) than the native-born (0.3 % points) ADVANTAGE NATIVE-BORN
  • The employment/population ratio (percent of working age population holding jobs) declined by 0.4 percentage points, or by 0.7%, for immigrants while rising by 0.2 percentage points, or 0.3%, for the native-born. ADVANTAGE NATIVE-BORN.

One data point where immigrants continue to prevail, come Hell or High Water, is population growth. The foreign-born population of working age rose 3.1% since last December; the corresponding native-born population rose by 1.3%

A New Year is good time to look at long-term trends and ponder what “might have been” had those trends moved differently. In our case, we might ask how a more restrictive immigration policy would have impacted the current employment of native-born workers.

The key factoid in this exercise is the foreign-born share of employment: From 1996 to December 2012 the foreign-born share of total U.S. employment rose steadily, from 10.6% to 16.2%:

Obama's  Legacy

Over this period the number of employed immigrants rose by 9.85 million while the number of the unemployed native-born rose by 3.51 million and the number of the native-born who dropped out of the labor force entirely rose by about 17 million.

Question: How much of the rise in native-born unemployment and underemployment (i.e., drop outs) is attributable to the rise in immigrant employment?

Put differently, how many more native-born Americans would be working today had they not been displaced by immigrants arriving over the past 16 years?

Short answer: we don’t know (but we can guess). Typically, American worker displacement is a statistical “black hole” so far as the official employment statistics are concerned. There are no readily available estimates. The BLS makes no effort to estimate the damage—either on an annual or a monthly basis.

But we can postulate a range of potential answers:

  • If the displacement rate is 10%—i.e., one native-born American made jobless for every ten new immigrant workers—then 985,000 natives are currently unemployed due to the past 16 years of immigration.
  • If the displacement rate is 25%, then 2.46 million natives are currently unemployed because of the past 16 years of immigration.
  • At 50% displacement, 4.925 million natives are currently unemployed or underemployed due to last 16 years of immigration.
  • At 100% displacement, 9.850 million natives are unemployed or underemployed because of the last sixteen years of immigration

A 100 percent displacement rate will strike many as implausible. But it serves as a useful benchmark—an upper bound—to the potential employment gains of an immigration moratorium.

Some 20.5 million native-born Americans were either unemployed or underemployed as of December 2012. Had a moratorium been in effect since 1996, the number could be as much as 9.85 million lower today. Instead of 20.5 million, there would be only 10.7 million of us in this terrible situationa reduction of nearly 50%.

 Barack Obama has a job for the next four years. But for him the politics of amnesty trumps the economics of an immigration moratorium.

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