National Data | February Jobs: Only Immigrants Weather the Storm

Do you hear the wind? It’s a collective sigh of relief.

After two dismal employment reports—for December and January—that came in in well below expectations, many economists feared the worst: That the slowdown was not weather related but a sign that the economy was sliding back to recession—or worse. So last Friday’s news that employers added a better-than-expected 175,000 jobs in February, despite horrific weather, lifted much of the gloom. [US economy adds 175000 jobs in February despite harsh weather By Jim Puzzanghera , Los Angeles Times, March 7, 2014]

The latest figures for hiring are down from the average of 189,000 over the past 12 months and fell a bit short of what policy makers had been hoping to see at this stage of the recovery. The unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage point to 6.7 percent.

Still, the relatively strong showing means the Federal Reserve will stick with its plan to ease back its monetary stimulus, a policy that assumes long-term economic recovery is in the works.

To which we say: NOT SO FAST. The “other” employment survey, of households rather than employers, tells a very different story. The household survey found a mere 42,000 jobs were created in February, down sharply from the whopping 638,000 job growth it reported in January.

The household survey reports national origins. And more troubling still is the fact that native-born American workers received absolutely none of last month’s paltry job growth. In February:

  • Total  employment rose by 42,000, or by 0.03%
  • Native-born American employment fell by 57,000 or by 0.05%
  • Foreign-born employment rose by 99,000, or by 0.42%

Bad weather is bad news for all workers, but especially for immigrants concentrated as they are in construction, landscaping, and other occupations sensitive to weather. You would expect that the immigrant share of total employment would be less this February than in other recent February’s. But our analysis of BLS data shows the opposite:

Foreign-born Employment (millions)

 

January

February

% chg.

2009

21.647

21.213

-2.00%

2010

21.325

21.323

-0.01%

2011

22.203

21.846

-1.61%

2012

23.079

22.691

-1.68%

2013

23.368

23.369

0.00%

2014

23.745

23.844

0.42%

Foreign-born Share of Total Employment (%)

2009

15.22%

14.97%

-1.64%

2010

15.42%

15.38%

-0.26%

2011

15.94%

15.65%

-1.82%

2012

16.29%

15.97%

-1.96%

2013

16.30%

16.29%

-0.06%

2014

16.35%

16.41%

0.37%

Source: Author`s analysis of unseasonalized BLS data.

 

The immigrant share of total employment—16.41% in February 2014—is larger than that of any other February during the Obama years. More importantly, the growth in both immigrant employment and the immigrant employment share is extraordinarily high this month.

In fact, February 2014 was the only February of the Obama years in which both foreign-born employment and the foreign-born born employment share rose from the prior month.

The Obama-era tilt against native-born American workers is clearly evident in our New VDARE.com American Worker Displacement Index (NVDAWDI):

National Data | February Jobs: Only Immigrants Weather the Storm

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

From January 2009 to February2014:

  • Foreign-born employment rose by 2.197 million, or by 10.15%. The immigrant employment index rose from 100.0 to 110.1
  • Native-born employment rose by 848,000 or by 0.70%. The native-born employment index in February 2014 was 100.7, or less than 1 percent above the level of January 2009.
  • NVDAWDI (the ratio of immigrant to native-born employment growth indexes) rose from 100.0 to 109.4 (100X(110.1/100.7)

 A more detailed picture of American worker displacement, February 2013 to February 2014, is seen in seasonally unadjusted data published in the BLS monthly job report:

Employment Status by Nativity,Feb.2013-Feb.2014

(numbers in 1000s; not seasonally adjusted) 

 

Feb-13

Feb-14

Change

% Change

Foreign born, 16 years and older

Civilian population

37,858

38,188

330

0.9%

Civilian labor force

25,242

25,421

179

0.7%

     Participation rate (%)

66.7%

66.6%

-0.1% pts.

-0.1%

Employed

23,163

23,658

495

2.1%

Employment/population %

61.2%

61.9%

0.7% pts.

1.1%

Unemployed

2,079

1,763

-316

-15.2%

Unemployment rate (%)

8.2%

6.9%

-1.3% pts.

-15.9%

Not in labor force

12,617

12,768

151

1.2%

 

Native born, 16 years and older

Civilian population

206,969

208,897

1,928

0.9%

Civilian labor force

129,486

129,606

120

0.1%

     Participation rate (%)

62.6%

62.0%

-0.6% pts.

-1.0%

Employed

119,065

120,476

1,411

1.2%

Employment/population %

57.5%

57.7%

0.2% pts.

0.3%

Unemployed

10,421

9,130

-1,291

-12.4%

Unemployment rate (%)

8.0%

7.0%

-1.0% pts.

-12.5%

Not in labor force

77,483

79,291

1,808

2.3%

Source: BLS, The Employment Situation – February 2014, Table A-7, March 7, 2014. PDF

 

Over these 12 months:

  • Immigrants gained 495,000 jobs, a 2.1% increase; native-born American workers gained 1,411,000 positions, a 1.2% increase. ADVANTAGE IMMIGRANTS
  • The unemployment rate for immigrants fell by 1.3 percentage points—or by 15.9%; the native-born American unemployment rate fell by 1.0 percentage points—a 12.5% decline. ADVANTAGE IMMIGRANTS
  • The labor force participation rate—a measure of worker confidencedeclined for both native-born and immigrants. In percentage terms, however, the native-born American rate fell more than the immigrant rate. ADVANTAGE IMMIGRANTS
  • The number of immigrants “not in the labor force”—i.e., neither working nor looking for work, rose by 151,000, or by 1.2%; the number native-born Americans not in the labor force rose by 1.808 million, or by 2.3%. ADVANTAGE IMMIGRANTS

Looking for a glimmer of hope? Try the civilian population data—the first line of the foreign-born and native-born sections. Taken at face value, the table shows both immigrant and native-born American populations growing at identical 0.9% rates over the past 12 months. If true, it would be the first time in decades that native-born American population kept pace with the foreign-born population.

A nice thought, but wrong. The table puts foreign-born population growth at only 330,000 for the year. Legal immigration alone is running at more than 1 million annually. You can’t blame the weather for an underestimate of this magnitude.

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