High Immigration Hurts American Workers…And Doesn’t Do Much for the Immigrants Either

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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.

August 12, 2011

Americans repeatedly hear that the country needs about 125,000 jobs per month simply to keep up with population growth. Mitt Romney, for example, has added that theme to his nascent presidential campaign.

Immigration reform patriots remain hopeful that, now that the nation is in full panic mode, we’ll get an answer to our repeatedly asked question: Why does the United States make the numbers of jobs per month required to stay even with population ever higher by annually inviting about one million legal immigrants to come to the United States to compete for employment?

For as much political rhetoric as there is about America’s high unemployment rate, not enough specifics are included about what it means to the jobless.

The invaluable Bureau of Labor Statistics recently compared the unemployment duration for persons jobless in one month to their labor force status in the following month. Using that manner of research, estimates of unemployment duration from month to month include those who eventually give up.  [How Long Before the Unemployed Find Jobs or Quit Looking, by Randy Ilg, Spring, 2011]

From 1994 through 2008, roughly half of all unemployed job seekers found employment within 5 weeks. Using 2007 as an example, 49 percent of those who were unemployed in the prior month but employed in the subsequent month had been jobless for less than 5 weeks. During the same year, less than 3 percent of the unemployed who found work had been jobless for more than 52 weeks.

By 2010, in stark contrast, 11 percent of transitions from unemployment to employment exceeded a year while only 34 percent lasted less than 5 weeks.

One of the report’s disturbing conclusions is that the longer the period of unemployment, the less likelihood of finding a job. For example, in 2010 the chance that a person who had been unemployed for less than 5 weeks would become employed in a subsequent month was about 30 percent. For those unemployed 27 weeks or more, the chance of finding employment in the subsequent month was only 10 percent.

The BLS also recently issued its local area monthly unemployment figures. Of the 382 metropolitan areas studied, only 8 have less that 5 percent unemployment---the figure economists generally consider as "full employment." At the bottom end of the BLS chart with unemployment  rates 13 percent or higher are 20 metropolitan areas with high levels of immigration---Las Vegas, Stockton, Modesto and Riverside.

Not only does continued immigration hurt American workers, the BLS statistics indicate that even the arriving immigrants, legal and illegal, suffer from an inability to get a job.

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