Obama's Eight Years: Immigrants Advance; Americans, Especially Blacks, Lose Ground

Published on January 13th, 2017

By Joe Guzzardi
January 13, 2017
As seen in:
Washington DC Patch

Boosting American job creation and immigration reductions were key to President-elect Donald Trump’s successful campaign. But Trump never fully identified how detrimental legal and illegal immigration are to job availability. When immigration levels decline, employment opportunities for Americans inevitably become more plentiful. Had Trump drawn the parallel, he might have won by a larger margin.

The alternate household survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and not the payroll survey that the media reports on, showed that in December the economy created only 63,000 jobs, less than half of the 156,000 that made the financial market’s headlines.

To accurately gauge the economy’s health, analysts need to acknowledge the important distinctions between the two surveys. In the payroll version which tallies approximately 146,000 businesses and government agencies that represent about 623,000 nationwide worksites, a single person holding two jobs is counted as employed twice. As millions were laid off during the 1990, 2001 and 2008 recessions, working multiple jobs became essential for millions of families.

On the other hand, the household survey, formally known as the Current Population Survey (CPS), is more direct. Of those among the 60,000 eligible households that participate in CPS, respondents are either employed, unemployed or not in the labor force. As the BLS website explains it: “The household survey employment measure is an estimate of employed people, not an estimate of jobs. People who have more than one job (multiple jobholders) are counted once in the household survey employment measure.”

Returning to Trump, immigration and jobs, the CPS also includes data on age, sex, race, Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, and educational attainment. With that information, it’s possible to learn the direct effect employment-authorized legal immigrants and illegal immigrants who may be in the underground economy have on American workers.

When President Obama took office, approximately 80 million Americans were out of the labor force. The December BLS report showed that the total had risen to 95 million, and the labor participation rate remained at 62.7 percent. CBS News’ Money Watch estimated that 38 percent of Americans live “one paycheck away from disaster.” Yet, according to the CPS, during the Obama years, immigrant employment rose by 4.3 million workers, with much of the employment in sectors that Americans have traditionally worked in. In February 2009, Barack Obama’s first full month in office, 15 percent of the working population was foreign-born. By December 2016, 17 percent of workers were born abroad.

Advocates argue fiercely that immigrant workers don’t displace Americans. But the reality is the opposite, especially for low-skilled, limited-education American minorities. In July 2016, the pro-immigration Washington Post wrote that black men and recently arrived under-educated legal immigrants disproportionately suffer from high immigration levels.

The Post story confirmed the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights 2010 report which found that illegal immigration depresses wages and employment opportunities, particularly for black men. Think of it this way: a 20-year-old Central American illegal immigrant competes directly for low-wage employment with a black high school graduate, but with the advantage going to the immigrant since he’s more likely to accept lower pay and substandard working conditions.

The Obama administration’s greatest irony is how poorly blacks have fared during his presidency. Not only has African-American poverty and welfare use remained high while home ownership declined, the black unemployment rate is roughly twice that of whites. In summary, during Obama’s two terms, immigrants have made forward strides, while blacks have gone backward.

Joe Guzzardi is a Senior Writing Fellow with Californians for Population Stabilization. Contact him at [email protected] and on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

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