According to a major new report from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), net employment growth in the United States since 2000 has gone entirely to immigrants, legal and illegal. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CIS scholars Steven A. Camarota and Karen Zeigler found that there were 127,000 fewer working-age natives holding a job in the first quarter of 2014 than in 2000, while the number of immigrants with a job was 5.7 million above the 2000 level.
The rapidity with which immigrants recovered from the Great Recession, as well as the fact that they held a disproportionate share of jobs relative to their share of population growth before the recession, help to explain their findings, the authors report. In addition, native-born Americans and immigrants were affected differently by the recession.
Other significant findings include:
Because the native-born population grew significantly, but the number working actually fell, there were 17 million more working-age natives not working in the first quarter of 2014 than in 2000.
The share of natives working or looking for work, referred to as labor force participation, shows the same decline as the employment rate. In fact, labor force participation has continued to decline for working-age natives even after the jobs recovery began in 2010.
Immigrants have made gains across the labor market, including lower-skilled jobs such as maintenance, construction, and food service; middle-skilled jobs like office support and health care support; and higher-skilled jobs, including management, computers, and health care practitioners.
The supply of potential workers is enormous: 8.7 million native college graduates are not working, as are 17 million with some college, and 25.3 million with no more than a high school education.
According to the study, 58 million working-age natives are not employed.
Camarota and Zeigler report three conclusions:
First, the long-term decline in the employment for natives across age and education levels is a clear indication that there is no general labor shortage, which is a primary justification for the large increases in immigration (skilled and unskilled) in the Schumer-Rubio bill and similar House proposals.
Second, the decline in work among the native-born over the last 14 years of high immigration is consistent with research showing that immigration reduces employment for natives.
Third, the trends since 2000 challenge the argument that immigration on balance increases job opportunities for natives. Over 17 million immigrants arrived in the country in the last 14 years, yet native employment has deteriorated significantly.
The Center for Immigration Studies is a non-profit research institute. Founded in 1985, the organization is regularly consulted by policymakers, the academic community, and the media on matters of immigration policy.