The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report was its usual deceptive self, at least as it relates to the unemployment rate which officially dropped from 6.7 to 6.6 percent. The small 113,000 jobs gain in January is insignificant because it was again well below the total economists had projected and failed to equal immigration plus natural population increase. Wall Street analysts had anticipated 180,000 jobs. A more reliable overview, the three-month period that includes November, December and January, is also anemic. The aggregate 154,000 jobs created during the last three months averages a pathetic 51,000 per month.
The 6.6 unemployment rate is the so-called U-3 that tallies people who have been without jobs for four weeks and have been looking for work. The more accurate U-6 rate that includes those marginally attached to the labor market and discouraged workers who have given up searching is 12.7 percent; Shadow Stats, a website created to expose federal economic reporting “net of financial-market and political hype,” sets unemployment at 23.2 percent.
Since lousy monthly BLS employment reports are the norm, economists have turned their attention to U.S. workers’ depressed wages which have now been stagnant for more than 40 years. In 2013, wages increased 1.9 percent or, after adjusting for inflation, 0.4 percent. That tiny bump was even smaller than the one recorded in 2012, and was half the normal wage gain rate during the two decades before the last recession.
Despite ample evidence that more immigration means a looser labor market which hurts American workers, the subject is taboo in Congress. Nevertheless, the February BLS report is another in a long series of reasons why legalizing 12-20 million illegal aliens and issuing them work permits plus doubling the number of overseas workers within a decade is a disastrously bad idea. Even the pro-amnesty Center for American Progress acknowledged that unskilled workers would earn an average of $400 more annually if illegal worker competition was cut by one-third.
As of today, amnesty has hit a brick wall. Tomorrow, who knows? Some insiders predict, probably correctly, that the amnesty thrust will resume after the mid-term elections and during the lame duck session. Whether the jobs market will be better in 2015 and more capable of absorbing millions more workers is unlikely. As an example of how tenuous the economy is, the BLS has devoted a webpage to what it calls “mass layoffs,” a trend that may continue into the foreseeable future.
The prudent approach to adding more foreign workers would be to wait until the U.S. not only returns to full employment but sustains it for at least five years.