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Immigrant Gains and Native Losses In the Job Market, 2000 to 2013

July 9, 2013
By Steven A. Camarota, and Karen Zeigler

In this Backgrounder at CIS, the authors note that while jobs are always being created and lost, and the number of workers rises and falls with the economy, a new analysis of government data shows that all of the net gain in employment over the last 13

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In this Backgrounder at CIS, the authors note that while jobs are always being created and lost, and the number of workers rises and falls with the economy, a new analysis of government data shows that all of the net gain in employment over the last 13 years has gone to immigrants (legal and illegal). From the first quarter of 2000 to the first quarter of 2013, the number of natives working actually fell by 1.3 million while the overall size of the working-age (16 to 65) native population increased by 16.4 million. Over the same time period, the number of immigrants working (legal and illegal) increased by 5.3 million. In addition to the decline in the number of natives working, there has been a broad decline in the percentage holding a job that began before the 2007 recession. This decline has impacted natives of almost every age, race, gender, and education level. The total number of working-age (16 to 65) natives not working — unemployed or out of the labor force entirely — was nearly 59 million in the first quarter of this year, a figure that has changed little in the last three years and is nearly 18 million larger than in 2000.

Among the findings:

  • Between the first quarter of 2000 and the first quarter of 2013, the native-born population accounted for two-thirds of overall growth in the working-age population (16 to 65), but none of the net growth in employment among the working-age has gone to natives. 

  • The overall size of the working-age native-born population increased by 16.4 million from 2000 to 2013, yet the number of natives actually holding a job was 1.3 million lower in 2013 than 2000. 

  • The total number of working-age immigrants (legal and illegal) increased 8.8 million and the number working rose 5.3 million between 2000 and 2013. 

  • Even before the recession, when the economy was expanding (2000 to 2007), 60 percent of the net increase in employment among the working-age went to immigrants, even though they accounted for just 38 percent of population growth among the working-age population. 

  • Since the jobs recovery began in 2010, about half the employment growth has gone to immigrants. However the share of working-age natives holding a job has remained virtually unchanged since 2010 and the number of working-age natives without a job (nearly 59 million) has not budged. 

  • The decline in the share of natives working, also referred as the employment rate, began before the 2007 recession. Of working-age natives, 74 percent had a job in 2000; by 2007, at the peak of the last expansion, just 71 percent had a job, and in the first quarter of 2013, 66 percent had a job. 

  • The decline in employment rates for working-age natives has been nearly universal. The share of natives working has declined for teenagers and those in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s from 2000 to 2007 and from 2007 to 2013. The decline has been especially pronounced for workers under age 30. 

  • Like age, there has been a decline in work for all educational categories. The employment rate for native high school dropouts, high school graduates, those with some college, and those with at least a bachelor's degree declined from 2000 to 2007 and from 2007 to 2013. 

  • The number of adult natives with no more than high school education not working is 4.9 million larger in 2013 than in 2000, the number with some college not working is up 6.8 million, and the number with at least a bachelor's degree not working is up 3.8 million. 

  • The decline in work, which began before the Great Recession, has impacted men and women as well as blacks, Hispanics, and whites. The fall in the share of working-age natives holding a job has been most pronounced for men, blacks, and Hispanics. 

  • During the five years prior to 2013 (2008-2012), about 5.4 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) of all ages arrived in the United States. In the five years prior to 2007, about 6.6 million new immigrants arrived. Thus, during the worst economic slowdown in the last 75 years, immigration fell by only 17 percent compared to the economic expansion from 2002 to 2006.
Article Tags
Economy Immigration