By Joe Guzzardi
May 11, 2015
Unsurprisingly, the tepid Bureau of Labor Statistics April jobs report highlighted the positive, but relegated the most significant facts to the footnotes. April’s job growth was decent if undramatic. The 223,000 new jobs created came close the 2014 yearly average, and the unemployment rate dipped from 5.5 percent to 5.4 percent.
Even though the unemployment rate metric has been widely mocked as meaningless because it excludes individuals who haven’t been employed for a month and have stopped looking for work, the figure is always touted, especially if it’s declining.
But the critical prime-age employment to population ratio, determined by taking the total number of individuals who are labor-force employed and then dividing it by the total population, remains unacceptably static at 77.2 percent, and is lower than when the Great Recession started.
April was a particularly rough month for women. A record 56.1 million women, age 16 years and over, were not attached to the labor force last month, and their participation rate dropped to a 27-year low 56.6 percent.
Economist Dean Baker from the Center for Economic and Policy Research described just how poorly the U.S. is doing in advancing prime-age employment. According to Baker, the U.S. is doing much worse than other industrialized nations, specifically European countries where prime-age employment often exceeds 80 percent.
Experts are left to grab at straws to paint a positive picture. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities senior economist Jared Bernstein theorizes that the labor force participation rate, now at 62.8 percent, has stabilized in the neighborhood of 63 percent—a good thing, he thinks, after accounting for population growth. But Bernstein acknowledges that much of the flattening is driven by discouraged workers dropping out. Bernstein grudgingly concedes that there’s “more slack in the jobs market than the relatively low unemployment rate suggests.”
In light of the continued weakness in the labor market, slowing immigration should be considered as a partial solution to nation’s the economic doldrums. Instead, the White House treats possible immigration reductions as taboo even though continued high immigration has had painful consequences for U.S. workers
In its report for April, the seasonally adjusted BLS data revealed that since the recession began in December 2007, the immigrant population has enjoyed a much greater net employment growth rate than native-born Americans. In December 2007 the number of foreign-born workers was 22.8 million, but by April 2015, the total had reached 24.8 million, a net job growth of about 2 million. For native-born workers, however, net job growth during the same eight-year period was only 245,000.
Not only has the federal policy of admitting one million work-authorized legal permanent residents every year contributed to American job displacement, it’s been a major factor in wage stagnation for those lucky enough to still be employed.
At the Senate Judiciary Committee’s request, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service reviewed middle-class American wages before and since 1970. Prior to the immigration surge, American wages steadily rose, but after adding millions of workers to the labor pool post-1970 incomes plunged—the logical outcome of supply and demand economics. Last month, in the latest example, wages rose a miniscule 0.1 percent above the March figure.
Infusing the economy with one million new permanent workers annually plus adding another several hundred thousand temporary workers, some of whom never go home, at the same time that meaningful employment opportunities shrink is unsustainable, and has eroded—perhaps irreversibly—the American middle-class.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]