On its face, last month’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report reflected just how terrible today’s job market is. The economy created only 151,000 nonfarm payroll jobs, 30,000 less than Wall Street projected, and this was the tenth time in the last 13 months that analysts missed their mark. As has now become routine with the monthly BLS reports, low-paying, tip-dependent bar and restaurant jobs gained, while better paying construction, transportation and manufacturing employment that might offer benefits remained flat or declined.
More discouraging news for working family heads: wages increased a measly 0.1 percent, and the Labor Participation Rate is stuck at an historically low 62.8 percent. Despite nearly $3 trillion spent on President Obama’s ill-conceived stimulus program, which he promised would create jobs but didn’t, too many Americans can’t find employment that will earn a living wage.
The headline BLS data – so-called because it’s based on the payroll survey the mainstream media and television talking heads report on – is frightening enough. But the less publicized Household Survey tells a more troubling and potentially irreversible story that could doom millions of Americans to a low-wage future. Because the Household Survey contains demographic statistics, immigrant employment totals can be ferreted out from the report.
In August, Household Survey employment rose 97,000, up by 0.06 percent from July. Breaking down the net 97,000 increase: native-born American employment fell by 177,000, a 0.14 percent decline, while foreign-born immigrant employment rose by 274,000, up by 1.06 percent.
Going back to the Obama administration’s earliest days, immigrant employment has increased five times faster than American employment, an increase of 20.6 percent for foreign-born versus 4.1 percent for Americans. In February 2009, Obama’s first full month in office, nearly 15 percent of all U.S working persons were foreign-born, contrasted to the 17.2 percent foreign-born share in August 2016, the highest month among the president’s 7 ½ years in office.
Understandably, immigration has affected lower-skilled Americans to a greater degree than it has college-educated professionals. In its examination of immigrant employment trends, the Center for Immigration Studies found that the Census Bureau’s American Time Use Survey showed that labor-force dropout by men in their prime working years – ages 25 to 54 – has been especially severe among native Americans without a high school degree. Native-born high school dropouts worked the equivalent of only 35 full-time weeks per year during the 2003-2015 period, while immigrant dropouts worked 49 equivalent weeks.
Skeptics may wonder how such a significant and consistent American worker displacement could have occurred. For the answer, look to autopilot federal immigration policy. During the last two decades, on average, one million legal, work-authorized immigrants have joined the economy yearly regardless of its overall health. Even the devastating mortgage meltdown which cost workers 8.7 million jobs didn’t slow immigration. Add to legal immigration about 750,000 more annual guest workers who come to perform jobs Americans allegedly won’t do, and there’s one explanation for today’s jobs crisis.
The economy cannot absorb or sustain one million legal, employment-authorized immigrants year after year without displacing U.S. workers, something that’s crystal clear to most Americans, but not to the Obama administration. Nevertheless, despite unchecked immigration’s threat to Americans, it continues unabated.
A Californians for Population Senior Writing Fellow, Joe can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.