Immigration and its Link to the Swing States' High Unemployment

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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.

September 29, 2012

A recent CAPS homepage feature story revealed that in August five of the 10 states considered pivotal in the U.S. presidential election lost jobs. Unemployment increased in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin. In the other five crucial states---Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida and Virginia, the unemployment statistics either remained unchanged or increased fractionally. The ten states represent 115 electoral votes. [Jobless Rates Rise in 5 of Ten Campaign Swing States, by Michelle Jamrisko and Alex Kowalski, Bloomberg News, September 21, 2012]

In the weeks leading up to November 6, there have been and will be so many polls offering so many different perspectives that they defy comprehensive analysis.

But one constant remains. Immigration’s adverse impact on American unemployment will be an unmentionable for the incumbent president Barack Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney. Even voters in Nevada, the nation’s  most beleaguered state with its 12.1 percent unemployment, will not hear a single word about immigration unless its boilerplate, debunked stuff about “doing jobs Americans won’t.”

As grim as the widely published Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment data is, the more telling U-6 rate is appalling.  The BLS defines U-6 as total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force.

For the swing states, the U-6 rate is Iowa (10.5 percent), New Hampshire (11.2), North Carolina (17.5), Wisconsin (13.3) and Nevada (22.1).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest data, Nevada’s Hispanic population is 27.1 percent. Any time a demographic representation is as high as Nevada’s, American workers will suffer. Many Americans would eagerly work in Nevada’s hospitality industry, if offered the opportunity.

A Center for Immigration Studies report found that from 2000 to 2010, all of the net employment gains went to immigrant (legal and illegal) workers. Fewer native-born workers were employed in 2010 than in 2000, despite a 13.5 million increase in native-born workers during that time. Despite all evidence which proves that adding nearly 1 million legal immigrants annually to the work force devastates Americans, immigration remains the third rail on the campaign trail.

Even the administration’s staunchest supporters paint a grim employment picture for years to come. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich summed it up this way:

"Since the start of the Great Recession [through March, 2010], the economy has lost 8.4 million jobs and failed to create another 2.7 million needed just to keep up with population growth. That means we're more than 11 million in the hole right now. And that hole keeps deepening every month we fail to add at least 150,000 new jobs, again reflecting population growth....Bottom line: This is no jobs recovery."

Perhaps the most curious thing about the candidates’ failure to mention immigration is that mainstream Americans like the idea of limiting it. A CNN/ORC International poll found that 75 percent favor Arizona’s Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Law (SB 1070).

Nevertheless, Republicans and Democrats alike persist in their efforts to force more immigration onto struggling Americans.

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