BLS Alternate Household Survey Shows Precarious Future for American Workers

Published on April 4th, 2016

By Joe Guzzardi
April 4, 2016
On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced its March jobs report which was, superficially at least, positive. The economy created 215,000 jobs, higher than anticipated, and wages—long the bugaboo in the payroll survey—moved up .03 percent.
Analysts were giddy. The Washington Post touted “healthy job growth,” and the New York Times wrote that “Americans are going back to work” because of “a burst of hiring in recent months.”
But a more interesting picture of the true, troubled economy, and one that explains why non-establishment presidential candidates are having such success in the primaries, is found in the BLS household survey which uses a different method of collecting data than the headline-making payroll survey.
Payroll statistics are based on workers’ employment status from 400,000 businesses; household data includes facts gathered from 60,000 workers, and includes race and ethnicity, variables excluded from the payroll survey. 
Last month, the household survey was more robust than its alter ego payroll survey—246,000 jobs versus 215,000. But because demographic information is part of the equation in the household survey, it’s possible to determine just who exactly got those jobs. The household survey revealed that foreign-born nationals defined as legal and illegal immigrants got 100 percent of March’s 246,000 jobs.
While some are surprised at the ongoing immigrant employment surge, it’s consistent with four factors. First, for more than two decades, an average of one million permanent legal work-authorized immigrants have arrived, and have gradually entered the labor market. Second, going back to 1990, the legal workforce has been supplemented by millions of non-immigrant guest worker visas like the H-1B. Some like the J visa have no numerical limit. The visas are supposedly temporary, but a more accurate description is permanently temporary. Third, during the same twenty years, border enforcement has been increasingly lax, and under President Obama has been all but gutted. Instead of enforcement, the Obama administration has offered inducements to come to the United States like work permits for unlawful immigrants, deferred action, and temporary deportation protection. Fourth, also during  the same two-decade period, good American jobs have been offshored through bad trade deals or moving factories abroad, and an explosion in low-paying, often part-time U.S. service jobs in hospitality and retail has replaced them.
Immigrant labor is over-represented in many service categories while better paying jobs in mining and manufacturing, traditionally dominated by blue-collar American men, are in steep decline. March reflected big losses in manufacturing and mining, but with major gains posted in what BLS groups as “food services and drinking places” as well as retail and hospitality which accounted for nearly one-third of the 215,000 payroll survey jobs.
Obama has steadfastly insisted that more immigration is good for the American economy, and is an engine for job creation. But government data disputes the president’s theory. Moreover, and inarguably, the millions of low-skilled, under-educated immigrants who arrived since 1990 have created intense job competition for poor minority Americans struggling to get out of poverty.
Immigration should serve American interests first. Instead, it’s become a vehicle for the corporate cheap labor lobby to maximize its profits. And the pro-immigration lobby is huge and has deep pockets. After crunching Federal Election Committee filings from 2008-2012, the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation learned that Big Ag, Big Tech, and the construction and hospitality industries spent $1.5 billion on pro-immigration lobbying. Little wonder that Americans are fed up with politics as usual.


Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]


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