28.4M Foreign-Born Workers in U.S. Have Lower Unemployment Rate Than Native-Born

By Susan Jones | May 15, 2020 | 10:57am EDT
Grape harvesting in California. (Photo by Ann Johansson/Corbis via Getty Images)
Grape harvesting in California. (Photo by Ann Johansson/Corbis via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Foreign-born people in the United States had a lower unemployment rate in 2019 (3.1 percent, down from 3.5 percent in 2018) than native-born Americans (3.8 percent, down from 4.0 percent in 2018), the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday.

BLS said in 2019, there were 28.4 million foreign born people in the U.S. labor force, or 17.4 percent of the total (up from 13.3 percent in 2000).

Hispanics accounted for nearly half (47.6 percent) of the foreign-born labor force in 2019, while Asians accounted for one-quarter (25.3 percent).

BLS notes that the "foreign-born" are people living in the United States but who were not born in the U.S. and were not U.S. citizens at birth.

The foreign born include legally-admitted immigrants, refugees, temporary residents such as students and temporary workers, and undocumented immigrants. However, the survey does not separately identify persons in these categories.

Other findings:

-- Foreign-born men were more likely to participate in the labor force than native-born men (78.0 percent compared with 67.4 percent), while foreign-born women were less likely to participate in the labor force than native-born women (54.8 percent compared with 57.9 percent).

-- By age, the proportion of the foreign-born labor force made up of 25- to 54-year-olds (72.5 percent) was higher than for the native-born labor force (61.8 percent). Labor force participation is typically highest among persons in that age bracket.

-- Foreign-born workers were more likely than native-born workers to be employed in service occupations; natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations; and production, transportation, and material moving occupations. Foreign-born workers were less likely than native-born workers to be employed in management, professional, and related occupations and in sales and office occupations.

-- The median usual weekly earnings of foreign-born full-time wage and salary workers were $800 in 2019, compared with $941 for their native-born counterparts.

-- By age, the proportion of the foreign-born labor force made up of 25- to 54-year-olds (72.5 percent) was higher than for the native-born labor force (61.8 percent). Labor force participation is typically highest among persons in that age bracket.

-- In terms of educational attainment, the proportion of the foreign-born labor force age 25 and over that had not completed high school was 20.4 percent in 2019, much higher than the figure for the native-born labor force, at 3.9 percent. The foreign born were less likely than the native born to have some college or an associate degree -- 16.2 percent compared with 28.6 percent.

-- By region, the foreign born made up a larger share of the labor force in the West (23.5 percent) and in the Northeast (20.2 percent) in 2019 than for the nation as a whole (17.4 percent). In contrast, the foreign born made up a smaller share of the labor force than for the nation as a whole in the South (16.5 percent) and the Midwest (9.7 percent).

The data on nativity are collected as part of the Current Population Survey, a monthly sample of approximately 60,000 households.

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