Foreign-born US Residents Gain Jobs

November 2, 2010

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Data-driven | Hispanic | Staffing

Foreign-born US residents gained jobs from Q2 2009 to Q2 2010 while native-born residents lost jobs, according to a new analysis of US Census Bureau and Department of Labor data by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.

Foreign-born Workers Obtain 656K New Jobs
Between Q2 2009 and Q2 2010, foreign-born workers gained 656,000 jobs while native-born workers lost 1.2 million. As a result, the unemployment rate for immigrant workers fell 0.6 percentage points during this period (from 9.3% to 8.7%), while for native-born workers it rose 0.5 percentage points (from 9.2% to 9.7%).


Pew analysis shows the 2009-2010 recovery for immigrants, who make up about 16% of the US labor force, is also reflected in two other key labor market indicators. A greater share of their working-age population (ages 16 and older) is active in the labor market, evidenced by a fractional increase in the labor force participation rate from 68% in Q2 2009 to 68.2% in Q2 2010. Likewise, a greater share is employed, with the employment rate up from 61.7% to 62.3%.

Meanwhile, during the same time period, native-born US residents engaged less in the labor market (labor force participation rate fell from 65.3% in Q2 2009 to 64.5% in Q2 2010), and a smaller share was employed (58.3% compared to 59.3%).


Recovery from ’08 Not Complete
Despite these gains, job recovery for immigrants is far from complete. The 656,000 jobs immigrants gained in the first year of the recovery are not nearly sufficient to make up for the 1.1 million jobs they lost from Q2 2008 to Q2 2009.

During the two-year period from Q2 2008 to Q2 2010, foreign-born workers lost 400,000 jobs and native-born workers lost 5.7 million jobs. The unemployment rate for immigrants is still more than double the rate prior to the recession, when it stood at 4% in Q2 2007.

Foreign-born Incomes Fall Further
From 2009 to 2010, the median weekly earnings of foreign-born workers decreased 4.5%, compared with a loss of less than 1% for native-born workers. Latino immigrants experienced the largest drop in wages of all.

Flexibility, Mobility May Aid Immigrant Job Search
The reasons that only foreign-born workers have gained jobs in the recovery are not entirely clear. Pew suggests one factor might be greater flexibility on the part of immigrants. Research suggests that immigrants are more mobile than native-born workers, moving more fluidly across regions, industries and occupations. But the flip side of flexibility can be instability. Unpublished research by the Pew Hispanic Center finds that immigrants are more likely to exit from and enter into employment on a month-to-month basis.

Another reason that immigrants are displaying greater success at the start of the recovery might simply be that their employment patterns are more volatile over the business cycle. This means that immigrants register sharper losses in the early stages of recessions but rebound quicker in the recovery. That pattern played out in the 2001 recession and recovery, according to Pew analysis, and it may be repeating now.

2/3 of Americans Give Job Market Poor Marks
About two in three Americans across the country say the current job market is bad, according to results of a new Harris Poll. Westerners seem to feel the worst about the job market, as almost three-quarters of them (73%) say it is bad in their region of the country and only 8% say it is good. Southerners feel the best about the job market, as almost one in five (18%) say the job market in their region is good while 58% say it is bad.

About the Data: The data for this report are derived from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly survey of about 55,000 households conducted jointly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Census Bureau. Data from three monthly surveys were combined to create larger sample sizes and to conduct the analysis on a quarterly basis. The universe for the analysis is the civilian, non-institutional population ages 16 and older.


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