National Data | February Jobs—Second Disastrous Month for American Worker Displacement/Immigrant Workforce Growth–As Economy Surges. Why?

The Labor Department employment report released Friday reads like a Trump White House press release: payroll jobs up by 313,000, the biggest gain in 18 months; unemployment rate at 4.1%, a 17-year low, despite a big increase in the labor force—i.e., the number of people actually looking for jobs. The one negative: a weak 0.1% rise in wages—although even this arguably reduces the chance that the Federal Reserve will derail the economy with interest rate hikes.

But completely missing from public debate, as usual: the fact that that all job growth was all taken by immigrants—and the immigrant workforce population continues the incredible growth it suddenly began last month (perhaps accounting for the weak wage growth). What’s going on?

The “other” employment survey, of households rather than businesses, finds even stronger job growth—a remarkable 510,000 new positions created for the month. But the Household Survey also tracks nativity, and for the second month running this shows a continuing spike in the foreign-born working age population (including illegals):


Change in foreign-born population from the same month the prior year.

(Age 16 or older; in 1,000s.)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

In February 2018 there were 1.818 million more working-age immigrants than in February 2017. This comes on the heels of a 1.246 million increase, year-over-year, recorded in January. By contrast, the last five months of 2017 saw year-over-year declines from the same month in 2016—part of what we optimistically saw as a “Trump Effect.”

These are net figures. Over a 12-month period an average of perhaps 300,000 immigrants die and an equal number leave the U.S. voluntarily. So the 1.818 million net rise in foreign-born population since last February means that about 2.4 million foreign-born individuals may have entered the country over the past 12 months. (This excludes tourists and other short-term entrants.)

In percentage terms, the immigrant working-age population grew 11-times faster than the corresponding native-born American population in February – 4.42% versus 0.41%. If 4.42% per annum growth becomes the norm, the number of immigrants working here will double in about 16 years.

The monthly job numbers also show native-born Americans being displaced by their foreign-born competitors. In February:

  • Immigrant employment rose by 510,000—up by 1.9%
  • Native-born American employment rose by 275,000—up by 0.22%
  • The immigrant employment index, set to 100.0 in January 2009, rose from 123.5 to 125.8.
  • The native-born American employment index rose from 105.9 to 106.1.
  • The New VDARE American Worker Displacement Index (NVDAWDI), our term for the ratio of immigrant to native-born employment growth indexes, rose from 116.6 to 118.5 (100X (125.8/106.1

Since taking office in January 2017 President Trump has presided over a labor market in which immigrants have gained 1.25 million jobs, a gain of 4.8%, while native-born Americans have gained 1.9 million jobs – a rise of only 1.5%.  As far as the labor market is concerned, “America First” has not translated to Americans First.

In normal times this might be a big story. But the even the conservative, non-Main Stream Media is too steeped in economic euphoria to notice.

The recent spike in American worker displacement is placed in a longer historical context in’s New American Worker Displacement Index (NVDAWDI):


January 2009 though February 2018

(Monthly employment index: Jan. 2009=100)

Source: BLS Household Employment Survey;

Trump has not yet come close to repairing the damage done by eight years of Obama. Native-born American workers lost ground to their foreign-born competitors throughout the Obama years, and, shown above, this trend accelerated significantly in the months leading up to the election.

Another way of looking at American worker displacement: the immigrant share of total U.S. employment:


January 2009 through February 2018

Source: BLS Household Employment Survey;

The immigrant share rose steadily, albeit erratically, throughout the Obama years. It fell sharply in the months after the 2016 election, roared back to Obama-era levels in the spring, and drifted downward in the last months of 2017.

Then it rebounded. In February the immigrant share of U.S. employment was 17.55%—larger than any month for which we have data. (The series starts in January 2008.)

A detailed snapshot of American worker displacement over the past year is available in the Employment Status of the Civilian Population by Nativity table published in the monthly BLS Report.

Employment Status by Nativity, Feb.2017- Feb.2018
(numbers in 1000s; not seasonally adjusted)
  Feb-17 Feb-18 Change % Change
  Foreign born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 41,137 42,955 1,818 4.42%
Civilian labor force 27,049 28,218 1,169 4.32%
     Participation rate (%) 65.8 65.7 -0.1 pts. -0.15%
Employed 25,701 27,094 1,393 5.42%
Employment/population % 62.5 63.1 0.6 pts. 0.96%
Unemployed 1,348 1,124 -224 -16.62%
Unemployment rate (%) 5.0 4.0 -1.0 pts. -20.00%
Not in labor force 14,088 14,736 648 4.60%
Native born, 16 years and older
Civilian population 213,108 213,979 871 0.41%
Civilian labor force 132,432 133,276 844 0.64%
     Participation rate (%) 62.1 62.3 0.2 pts. 0.32%
Employed 125,893 127,310 1,417 1.13%
Employment/population % 59.1 59.5 0.4 pts. 0.68%
Unemployed 6,539 5,966 -573 -8.76%
Unemployment rate (%) 4.9 4.5 -0.4 pts. -8.16%
Not in labor force 80,676 80,703 27 0.03%
Source: BLS, The Employment Situation-February 2018, Table A-7, March 9, 2018.

Over the past 12 months (February 2017 to February 2018):

  • The immigrant labor force (employed plus looking for work) grew 7-times faster than the native-born labor force: 4.32% versus 0.64%. ADVANTAGE IMMIGRANTS
  • Immigrant employment grew 4.8-times faster than immigrant employment: 5.42% versus 1.13%. ADVANTAGE IMMIGRANTS
  • The number of unemployed Americans fell by 573,000—down 8.8%, while the number of unemployed immigrants fell 224,000—down by 16.7%. ADVANTAGE IMMIGRANTS
  • The immigrant unemployment rate fell from 5.0% to 4.0%—a whopping 20% decline, while the rate for native-born declined from 4.9% to 4.5%, a fall of 8.2% ADVANTAGE IMMIGRANTS
  • The labor-force participation rate (LPR), a sign of worker confidence and mobility, fell 0.1 points for immigrants and increased 0.2 points for native-born Americans. At 65.7%, however, the immigrant LPR in February was considerably above the native-born American rate (62.3%.) ADVANTAGE IMMIGRANTS

Why this sudden whiplash? We can’t discount the possibility that an unrecognized illegal alien alien surge is underway. Border watchers say it is. But the abrupt turn from year-over-year population declines in the last five months of 2017 to an increase of 1 million-plus in the first two months of 2018 doesn’t make sense. We cannot ascribe this dramatic shift to any policy changes announced over the past few months.

We have always been concerned about the problem of statistical noise. This was particularly true for the January 2018 surge in the foreign-born working age population, which was at least in part triggered by the statistical “adjustments” incorporated into the Household Survey at the beginning of the year. And it’s why we like to look at longer-term trends—and the trend late last year was very strong. We speculated that that this “Trump Effect” would reassert itself after January, as it did after the similar inexplicable reversal last spring. We were wrong.

At least so far.  We still don’t rule out the possibility that the “Trump Effect” will reassert itself, and that American Worker Displacement and the immigrant workforce will again both begin to shrink.

But fourteen months into the Trump Presidency, it seems clear that improved enforcement, at least on the current scale, is not enough—America needs a legislated immigration moratorium.

And, of course, a border wall.

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