National Data: February Jobs Data Show Immigrants Beating Out Americans Again—And A New Immigration Surge?


The Main Stream Media is crowing about February’s jobs data: The Labor Department reported Friday that employers added 295,000 to their payrolls in the month and the unemployment rate fell to 5.5%—the lowest jobless rate since May 2008, just before the Great Recession. The job pop was well above expectations which had been dampened, or more accurately frozen, down by the coldest February in recent times.

But wait: the “other” employment survey, of households rather than employers, seems far closer to economic reality, given the meteorological debacle we went through last month. The survey of households found only 96,000 jobs were added last month, down from 759,000 it reported in January.

The Household Survey also provides insight into another conundrum: the absence of meaningful wage growth among American workers. With high rates of job growth and an unemployment rate that is approaching a normal, healthy level, you would expect workers to have more leverage to demand raises. But the latest job report offers no real evidence of this. Average hourly earnings rose only 0.1% in February, down sharply from the 0.5% reported in January.

February’s wage stall is hardly surprising given the anemic Household job growth total—and, more importantly, the distribution of jobs between foreign-born a.k.a. immigrant and native-born American.

In February 2015:

  • Total employment rose by 96,000 – up by 0.1%
  • Native-born American employment fell by 14,000—down by 0.01%
  • Foreign-born employment rose by 110,000—up by 0.7%

February saw the resumption of American worker displacement, the tendency of immigrants to gain jobs at faster rates than native-born Americans, which had been in abeyance during the prior two months.

Typically, several talking heads have recently blamed February’s wage stall on the retirement of high income Baby Boomers rather than the renewed displacement of native-born workers by low income immigrants. The MSM’s blackout of the immigration dimension of employment and income issues remains extraordinary. (But see below).

Our New VDARE.com American Worker Displacement Index (NVDAWDI) graphs employment growth of native-born Americans, immigrants, and the excess of immigrant over native-born job growth, during the Obama years:

(Note that you can now mouse-over get the underlying data! But this won’t show up if you’re reading VDARE.com on a mobile device).

Native-born American employment growth is the black line, immigrant employment growth is in pink, and NVAWDI—the ratio of immigrant to native-born American job growth—is in yellow. The index starts at 100.0 for both immigrants and native-born Americans in January 2009, and tracks their employment growth since then.

From January 2009 to February 2015:

  • Foreign-born employment rose by 3.292 million, or by 15.2%. The immigrant employment index rose from 100.0 to 115.2.
  • Native-born American employment rose by 2.784 million or by 2.3%. The native-born American employment index rose from 100.0 to 102.3
  • NVDAWDI (the ratio of immigrant to native-born American employment growth indexes) rose from 100.0 to 112.6 (100X(115.2/102.3)

The key variable in calculating American Worker Displacement is the foreign-born share of total U.S. employment. In Barack Obama’s first full month in office (February 2009) 14.97% of all persons working in the U.S. were foreign-born, according to that month’s Household Employment Survey. Since then the foreign-born share has risen steadily, albeit erratically.

The immigrant share of total employment rose to 16.82% in February, up from 16.75% the prior month. In only five of the 74 months of Obama’s tenure have immigrant workers accounted for a larger share of total U.S. employment than they did in February.

More importantly, February’s foreign-born employment share was 1.85 percentage points, or about 12%, above the level recorded in February 2009, the first full month of Mr. Obama’s administration.

With total employment now at a record 148.3 million, every one percentage point rise in the foreign-born employment share translates to as many as 1,483,000 displaced native-born American workers. Implication: Obama-era immigration may have pushed as many as 2,744,000 (1.85 times 1,483,000) native-born Americans onto the unemployment rolls.

A detailed snapshot of American worker displacement over the past year is seen in the “Employment Status of the civilian population by nativity” table published in the monthly BLS report:

Employment Status by Nativity, Feb. 2014-Feb. 2015(numbers in 1000s; not seasonally adjusted)
  Feb-14 Feb-15 Change % Change
  Foreign born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 38,188 40,300 2,112 5.5%
Civilian labor force 25,421 26,276 855 3.4%
       Participation rate (%) 66.6% 65.2% -1.4% -2.1%
Employed 23,658 24,741 1,083 4.6%
Employment/population % 61.9% 61.4% -0.5% -0.8%
Unemployed 1,763 1,536 -227 -12.9%
Unemployment rate (%) 6.9% 5.8% -1.1% -15.9%
Not in labor force 12,768 14,023 1,255 9.8%
Native born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 208,897 209,600 703 0.3%
Civilian labor force 129,606 129,937 331 0.3%
       Participation rate (%) 62.0% 62.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Employed 120,476 122,378 1,902 1.6%
Employment/population % 57.7% 58.4% 0.7% 1.2%
Unemployed 9,130 7,559 -1,571 -17.2%
Unemployment rate (%) 7.0% 5.8% -1.2% -17.1%
Not in labor force 79,291 79,663 372 0.5%
Source: BLS, The Employment Situation – February 2015, Table A-7, March 6, 2015. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

Over the past 12 months:

  • Immigrant employment rose by 1.083 million, up by 6%; U.S.-born employment rose by 1.902 million, up by 1.6%. Immigrant employment grew nearly three-times faster than native-born American employment
  • The civilian labor force—the number of individuals working or looking for work—rose by 3.4% for immigrants and 0.3% for native-born Americans. The immigrant labor force grew 10 times faster than the American labor force.
  • Unemployment rates fell for both immigrants and native-born Americans; at 5.8%, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was the same for both groups in February 2015.
  • The Labor Force Participation Rate, a sign of worker confidence, was unchanged for native-born American workers, but fell for immigrants. Nevertheless, the native-born LPR (62.0%) remains well below that of immigrants (65.2 %.) Advantage immigrants

VDARE.com has been analyzing the monthly job data to assess immigrant displacement of American workers since 2004, with our first effort a year earlier in 2003. Throughout that period, which includes the greatest unemployment surge since the Great Depression there has only been one brief moment when the immigration dimension surfaced in the MSM, in mid-2014. This month, however, Breitbart’s Caroline May briefly reported the overall rise in immigrant employment, and the simultaneous decline in American employment, over the entire period since 2007 and her article was linked by the Drudge Report [Total Net Employment Gains In The U.S. —Since The Recession —Still Went To Foreign-Born, March 6, 2015].

We welcome Caroline to the club! Maybe some politician will finally notice.

Final note: also unreported in the MSM, the recent data appears to show an acceleration in foreign-born population growth.

The latest Household Survey shows that the foreign-born population of working age rose by 2.112 million from February 2014 to February 2015. The prior month’s report saw it growing by 1.8 million over the January 2014 to January 2015 period. Both figures are well over twice the 900,000 to one million estimate generally used for total annual legal immigration into the U.S.

America’s post-1965 immigration disaster may be intensifying.

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