The Worse the Job Market, the Harder the Push for Immigration Reform

Published on October 24th, 2013

By Joe Guzzardi
October 24, 2013

Month after depressing month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its dismal jobs report. September was no different. Earlier this week, in the report the government shutdown delayed, the BLS announced that the U.S. economy added just 148,000 jobs, significantly fewer than anticipated and mostly in the low wage service and clerical functions. With legal immigration averaging more than 75,000 per month, immigrants could take half of the newly created jobs. The pitifully meager job growth doesn’t even keep up with the working age population growth which increased last month by 209,000.

Despite the low jobs gain, the unemployment rate fell to 7.2 percent, the lowest since November 2008. The misleading unemployment calculations no longer include jobless Americans who have stopped looking for work. According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. has 90.6 million unemployed “non-institutionalized” (not living in prisons, mental facilities, homes for the elderly or serving in the military) men and women over the age of 16, an all-time high.

That’s 10 million more than the 80.5 million unemployed when President Obama took office. For every three Americans over the age of 16 earning a paycheck, there are two who aren’t looking for a job. Since 2008, among adults in their prime working years between 25 and 64, the number not working has increased by 1.8 million.

The unemployment crisis hurts all demographics. According to the Opportunity Nation coalition, 6 million young Americans aren’t attending school or working, a pattern that if it persists would severely restrict their futures. Without developing job skills or studying toward a degree, those 6 million would be limited to earning the minimum wage or enduring long term unemployment. The American Dream’s definition has been revised to mean having a part-time job, a rented apartment and a bus pass.

Given these appalling statistics, adding more workers to the labor market would make 20 million unemployed Americans’ job search much harder. Despite that obvious fact, last week President Obama demanded that Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform immediately. The Senate bill passed in June, S. 744, would give legal work permission to 11 million aliens and add more than 33 million foreign-born workers during the first two decades after it became law.

Economist Edwin S. Rubenstein, a former contributing editor to Forbes Magazine and the National Review crunched the BLS Household data, a different, more accurate set of numbers than the payroll statistics the administration uses. Rubenstein found that in September native-born American employment fell by 73,000 or 0.1 percent. During the same month, foreign-born employment rose by 206,000 or 0.9 percent. The immigrant share of total employment, 16.6 percent, is the highest for any September since President Obama took office.

During the five years between 2009 and 2013, foreign-born employment increase by 2.4 million, 10.8 percent, while American-born employment dropped by 254,000, 0.2 percent.

Since the Gang of 8 launched its immigration effort in February, Americans have been inundated with false, theoretical arguments explaining why more immigration is good for the economy and would create jobs. The evidence points in the opposite direction. More immigration is the last thing America needs. When the border is secured, and is proven secure for five years, and when the economy turns around, then and only then should Congress consider what immigration policy might benefit the U.S. In the meantime, Americans should be united against comprehensive immigration reform.

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