The August Bureau of Labor Statistics report was gloomier than economists anticipated. Wall Street projected job creation would exceed 200,000, but the total only reached 142,000, the smallest number since December.
Unemployment dropped from 6.2 percent to 6.1 percent. Other key labor variables were largely unchanged. The labor force participation rate has held steady since April at 62.8 percent. Also mostly flat were the employment to population ratio at 59 percent for the last three months and the average work week at a 34.5-hour average for the sixth straight month. Average hourly wages eked up 6 cents in August to $24.53, not bad for those who can find a job at that pay scale. Retail jobs, often the last port in an unemployment storm, lost 8,000 jobs. Manufacturing, the sector most likely to pay a living wage, did not add a single job.
Despite consistently lousy monthly BLS reports, comprehensive immigration reform, which would legalize and give work permits to 12 million illegal immigrants, as well as more than double legal immigration within a decade, still has a pulse. If President Obama doesn’t act unilaterally, Congress might. House Speaker John Boehner said last week that immigration reform could still happen in 2015.
In an encouraging turn of events, however, suddenly the relationship between mass immigration and American job loss has become a talking point in the weeks leading up to the November election. Senate challengers Scott Brown (New Hampshire) and Tom Cotton (Arkansas) are among those who have made the case for less immigration to safeguard American workers. Brown and Cotton’s Democratic incumbent opponents, Kelly Ayotte and Mark Pryor, are especially vulnerable since both signed last year’s S.744 bill that would have greatly expanded the foreign-born worker population.
To be sure, so far it’s the Republicans doing most of the talking. But the irrefutable equation between more legal workers and fewer employed Americans will put Democrats between a rock and a hard place. They can choose the untenable position of supporting amnesty at the expense of American workers or jump on the patriotic band wagon to defend them.