NEW YORK – Evidence is accumulating that the majority of job growth in the United States is going to immigrants, both legal and illegal, while the labor force participation for native-born Americans is hitting record lows.
Florida, for example, is ranked second in the nation in job growth, but from the first quarter of 2000 to the first quarter of 2014, 52 percent of the net increase in employment population has gone to immigrants, even though they accounted for only 33 percent of population growth, according to a report released Wednesday by the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies.
CIS researchers Karen Zeigler and Steven Camarota authored the study, titled “Who Got the Jobs in Florida?”
Zeigler and Camarota found that since the jobs recovery began in 2010, 64 percent of net employment growth among the state’s working-age population has gone to immigrants.
Since 2000, the labor force participation rate for Florida natives has dropped.
CIS reported that in 2000, 2 million working-age natives were either unemployed or out of the labor market entirely. By this year, it was nearly 3.3 million – a 62 percent increase.
“New immigrants took jobs across Florida’s labor market, including lower-skilled jobs such as maintenance and construction, middle-skilled jobs such as sales and office support, and higher-skilled jobs such as management and health care professions,” CIS reported.
“The supply of potential workers in Florida is enormous: half a million native-born college graduates were not working in the first quarter of 2014, as were one million with some college and 1.4 million with no more than a high school education.”
‘Difficulty finding sufficient American workers’
CIS pointed out that in September 2013, many of Florida’s biggest employers, including Disney, American Airlines, UPS and Honeywell, along with a number of other companies, jointly signed a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, arguing that there are not enough workers in the country – skilled and unskilled.
The letter read in part that “many of our companies continue to have difficulty finding sufficient American workers.”
The push for more immigrant labor was also strongly supported by Florida politicians.
Zeigler and Camarota stressed that both of Florida’s senators supported the Gang of Eight bill (S.744), which would roughly double legal immigration as well as grant legal status to illegal immigrants. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was one of the bill’s chief architects.
The push for more immigrant labor in Florida was made despite the reality that the employment picture for Florida’s native-born population looks dim.
“The number of working-age (16 to 65) natives not working is at or near a record high and their labor force participation is at a record low,” Zeigler and Camarota wrote.
“The labor force participation of Florida’s working-age natives ranks relatively low even though there has been substantial job growth in the state. Much of the job growth in the state has gone to foreign-born workers (legal and illegal).”
CIS concluded: “It is difficult to reconcile the enthusiasm of Florida’s business and political leaders for increasing the number of foreign workers allowed into the country given the enormous number of natives in the state not working and their generally poor employment situation.”
The CIS study dismissed the notion that immigrant employment gains occurred only in Florida’s lower-skilled job classifications.
“Immigrants tend to be less educated than natives on average and are more concentrated at the bottom end of the labor market in lower-skilled jobs,” Zeigler and Camarota noted.
“However, many immigrants are well educated and significant shares are employed in high-skilled professional jobs. Well more than half (60 percent) of the employment gains by immigrants in Florida were for those with at least a bachelor’s degree.”
Two CIS charts demonstrate the gains made by immigrant labor in Florida since 2000.
Figure 1 demonstrates that in Florida, while natives accounted for most of the increase in the working age population between 2000 and 2014, more than half of the employment gains went to immigrants.
Figure 2 translates Figure 1 into percentages, making the point that 67 percent of the increase in the working-age population in Florida between 2000-2014 consisted of Florida natives. At the same time, 52 percent of the employment gains in the same period of time went to immigrants, both legal and illegal.
“Despite what can only be described as a bleak employment picture for natives in the state, many of Florida’s biggest employers have lobbied for increases in the number of foreign workers, both skilled and unskilled, allowed into the country,” Zeigler and Camarota wrote in conclusion.
“Both of Florida’s senators supported the Gang of Eight bill (S.744), which would have roughly doubled future legal immigration, on the grounds that there are not enough workers in the country. But employment data for the state do not support the idea that workers are in short supply. In fact, the available evidence indicates that there is an enormous supply of potential workers of every education level in the state.”