A Need for More Immigrant Workers? Unemployment and Underemployment in the 1st Quarter of 2011

WASHINGTON, DC  /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ ~~ House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith recently introduced H.R. 2164, which requires all employers to verify the legal status of their new hires. Rep. Smith argues that the bill will reduce the employment of illegal immigrants. He also argues that there are plenty of less-educated Americans available to fill jobs vacated by illegal immigrants. Smith’s bill stands in stark contrast to President Obama’s approach, recently repeated in El Paso, that would allow illegal immigrants to remain permanently in their jobs and increase the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country each year.

To shed light on these differing approaches, the Center for Immigration Studies is publishing a detailed analysis of the employment situation for less-educated workers in the first quarter of this year – workers who are the most likely to compete with illegal immigrants for jobs. The report is online at http://www.cis.org/no-need-for-more-immigrant-workers-q1-2011. Among the findings:

~~ In the first quarter of 2011, the standard unemployment rate (referred to as U-3) for U.S.-born workers who have not completed high school was 22 percent.

~~ Using the broader measure of unemployment (referred to as U-6), that includes those who want to work but have not looked in the last four weeks and those forced to work part-time, the rate for U.S.-born workers who have not completed high school was 34.6 percent.

~~ The U-6 unemployment rate for U.S.-born workers who have only a high school education, but no additional schooling, is 21.5 percent. The situation for younger workers with only a high school education is even worse.

~~ Looking at all less-educated U.S.-born adults (ages 18 to 65), 26.9 million were not working in the first quarter of 2011. Less-educated is defined as having either failed to complete high school or having only a high school education.

~~ If we include all less-educated adult citizens, both U.S.-born and naturalized, 28.7 million were not working in the first quarter of 2011.

~~ If only one-fourth of the less-educated adult citizens currently not working took a job, it would equal the roughly 7 million illegal immigrants currently estimated to be holding non-farm jobs.

~~ The above figures do not include the 7.2 million American teenagers (16-17) not working. It also does not include the 17.1 million working-age citizens with some college, but not a bachelor’s degree, who are not working.

Discussion

Rep. Smith’s recently introduced bill (H.R. 2164) would for the first time require all businesses to verify the legal status of workers using the online E-Verify system. The bill seems likely to pass the House, and has already been endorsed by key business associations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association, the National Association of Home Builders, and the National Federation of Independent Business. Those who oppose the bill argue there are not enough American workers available to fill the estimated 8 million jobs held by illegal immigrants, 90 percent of which are non-agricultural. In a recent blog for The Hill newspaper, Rep. Smith argued that a very large number of potential workers are available and that passing H.R. 2164 would be helpful in putting some of them back to work.

Smith’s views stand in stark contrast to President Obama’s views on the issue, which were most recently outlined in his May 10th speech in El Paso. In that speech the president argued that because the border was more secure, it is now time to legalize illegal immigrants and to increase the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country. The president stated that amnesty and more legal immigration are needed for both humanitarian and economic reasons. The president seems to assume that jobs are plentiful.

The findings of this analysis indicate that the employment situation for the less-educated Americans, who are the most likely to compete with illegal immigrants, is bleak. An enormous number of less-educated workers are current looking for work and cannot find it and many more have given up looking for a job altogether.

Data and Methods

The data for all the Tables in this study come from the public-use files of the January, February, and March 2011 Current Population Surveys (CPS), which are collected monthly by the Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Each CPS includes about 131,000 respondents. The government publishes employment statistics that are both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted from the survey. The figures in this analysis are seasonally unadjusted because they are computationally simpler and easy for other researchers to replicate. Seasonal adjustment impacts the data only slightly. In general, BLS does not provide separate estimates for the foreign-born (immigrants) and the native-born broken down by characteristics like education, race, and age. However, all CPS respondents are asked these questions. The Census Bureau defines the foreign-born as persons who are not U.S. citizens at birth, which includes naturalized citizens, legal immigrants who are not citizens (green card holders), temporary visitors and workers, and illegal immigrants.

The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent research institute that examines the impact of immigration on the United States.

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Contact: Steven A. Camarota202-466-8185, sac@cis.org

SOURCE Center for Immigration Studies

Web Site: http://www.cis.org

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