February BLS Unspectacular, but Pew Report Projecting Huge Working-Age Immigrant Increases Alarming

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

March 10, 2017

The Bureau of Labor Statistics sort-of-okay jobs report for February isn’t the week’s most significant economic news. BLS data showed that in February the economy added 235,000 jobs, slightly above expectations. The labor participation rate increased from 62.9 percent to 63 percent, while unemployment remained unchanged at 4.7 percent. More details that include strong construction hiring, but weak wage growth, are on the BLS website here.

Immigrant workers’ ongoing arrival reduces Americans’ employment prospects.

A blockbuster Pew Research Center projection for an increase in working-age (25-64) future immigrants from 33.9 million in 2015 to 38.5 million by 2035 eclipsed February’s BLS data in its significance and in its meaning to the nation’s long-term economic stability. An ever-increasing labor pool during a shrinking jobs era will pose a difficult, and possibly insurmountable problem for employment-seeking American citizens. In its 2015 analysis, Pew predicted that by 2065, assuming no change in the current policy, 103 million new immigrants will have settled here, pushing total U.S. population to 441 million. Immigrants and their children will account for 88 percent of that increase.

Pew points to the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act as the beginning of a decades-long surge in work-eligible foreign nationals. The Pew report doesn’t speculate about what the labor market will look like two decades from now. Many jobs that exist today are being gradually eliminated, and will be gone within the period Pew analyzed. For example, in San Ramon, California, a self-driving shuttle recently went into service, and in some situations, a human backup driver is no longer required. While a shuttle bus driver doesn’t earn much, he’s in an entry level job that could lead to more lucrative employment. Only a handful of positions are safe from robotic displacement, for example, dentists, health technologists and chemical engineers – jobs that new immigrants rarely fill.

Despite ample evidence that the labor market is under siege and that millions of Americans are unemployed or underemployed, Congress resists acting on behalf of U.S. workers. Thirty-one Republican and Democratic Senators have asked the Department of Homeland Security to increase the 66,000 cap on H-2B visas so that thousands of low-skilled overseas workers could compete with vulnerable, often unemployed Americans in landscaping, seafood processing and the service industries.

Less immigration would tighten the labor market, and help stabilize the nation’s population. To achieve that goal, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced the RAISE Act that would reduce legal immigration by ending chain migration, eliminating the Diversity Visa, and reducing refugee resettlement. In 2015, more than one million work-authorized legal immigrants arrived, a total consistent with the annual average immigration flow for the last two decades.

Go to the CAPS Action Alert page here to ask your representative to support the RAISE Act.
 

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