The August 2023 Employment Situation survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) drew far more media attention than normal for a monthly economic publication, and for good reason. The survey shows that over 1.2 million native-born Americans lost jobs from July to August 2023. However, over the same period, nearly 700,000 new jobs went to foreign-born workers and boosted foreign-born employment to a record high. This dramatic difference is the product of an immigration system that is not delivering for hardworking American citizens, and a closer look at the long-term trend is even more ominous.
Individual months can show huge swings in employment because of factors like seasonal jobs. But this particular divide from July to August may foreshadow more bad news. The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant effect on the job market and caused employment numbers to crash for both native-born American workers and the foreign-born. The highest ever pre-COVID monthly total of American-born workers was recorded in October 2019. In that month, 131.7 million native-born Americans were employed. Economic recovery for American-born workers has been slow, and since the start of the pandemic that total has only been passed twice: in June and July 2023. As it stands right now, native-born Americans have lost a net 700,000 jobs over five years and full recovery, let alone growth, is yet to come.
The opposite is true for foreign-born workers. Their pre-COVID peak came in February 2019, when 27.8 million foreign-born people (legal immigrants and illegal aliens) held jobs. Since then, foreign-born employment has blown past that record and now stands at an unprecedented 30.4 million. In short, the foreign-born have gained 2.6 million jobs since their pre-COVID high, while the native-born have lost 700,000. This means that all post-pandemic job growth, coinciding with the millions of illegal aliens allowed into the country by the Biden administration, has gone to foreign-born workers. This 3.3 million job gap is an unacceptable consequence of lax border enforcement and an administration (and cheap-labor business interests) intent on flooding the market with low-skill illegal aliens to “solve” a labor shortage that does not exist.
Our current immigration policies are not benefitting American-born workers. Millions of American citizens struggle to find jobs while native-born employment has not recovered from COVID-19. However, the Biden administration’s top priority seems to be letting in as much cheap labor as possible. The number of illegal aliens living in the U.S. has grown to record highs thanks to policies that actively encourage them to enter, and many of these illegal aliens exploit backlogs in the system to work legally for years and compete directly with Americans. Meanwhile, some representatives are even proposing legislation that would effectively let any foreign national who shows up at the border and claims asylum to the U.S. with nearly zero barriers.
Michael Capuano joined FAIR in 2022. As a researcher and staff writer, he contributes to the work behind FAIR’s long-form research publications as well as topical content responding to immigration-related issues as they happen.
Before joining FAIR, Michael worked in the Enforcement and Removal Operations Law Division at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during law school at George Washington University and then as an immigration attorney at a Spanish-speaking law firm. Having grown up in Southern California and with experience on both sides of the issue, he is acutely conscious of the importance of the immigration issue to everyday life and the necessity of FAIR’s vision for reform.
Michael’s background before law school was in Urban Studies/Planning at the University of California, San Diego, informing a deep concern for the environment and good urban design, two issues very relevant to the current immigration crisis.
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