Regardless of American Worker Displacement, Immigration Grinds On

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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.

May 9, 2012

Getting a consensus on how many millions of Americans are looking for work is tough. But one thing is certain: No matter how the White House favorably spins the April Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report (unemployment down to 8.1 percent from last month’s 8.2), the net result can’t be obscured. Last month, the dismal economy created only a measly 115,000 jobs.

Americans can’t find jobs, in part because there aren’t that many but in larger part because the federal government persists in its cruel policy of issuing about 100,000 work permits to new immigrants every month and another 7,000 or so called temporary non-immigrant visas like the H-1B and the L-1.

Assuming the typical pattern of legal immigration held up last month (and there is no indication that it didn’t), that would leave about 8,000 jobs for millions of unemployed and under-employed Americans to fight for. Since most of those positions are in the low paying service sector, many of the unemployed have simply given up.

Estimates of just how many millions are unemployed/under-employed ranges widely. The most often quoted figure is 20 million. The Breitbart news syndicate puts the total at 30 million. But CNN Money, in a story posted on the CAPS homepage, noted importantly that job creation (if “creation” is the right word) isn’t keeping pace with population growth. CNN puts the total number of unemployed or out of the labor market at a staggering 86 million. [The 86 Million Invisible Unemployed, by Annalyn Censky, CNN, May 4, 2012]

The comparison between 2007 and today is terrifying.

In July 2007, generally considered the boom years’ peak, 146.1 million people worked, 7.1 million were unemployed and 4.5 million held part-time positions for what they described as “economic reasons.” A total of 78.7 million people were not in the labor force; the unemployment rate was 4.6 percent.

Through March 2012, there were 142 million employed, 12.7 million unemployed, 7.7 million marginally attached to the work force and 87.9 million "not in the labor force." Despite all evidence to the contrary, the White House-manipulated unemployment rate is now 8.1 percent.

Worse, according to the Labor Department statistics I cited above, the U6 unemployment rate is 19 percent. U6 unemployment includes not only people without work who are seeking full-time employment (the more familiar U-3 rate), but also counts marginally attached workers and those working part-time who want to be full-time employees.

No economist or pie-in-the-sky former president (read: Bill Clinton) thinks that the economy is on the verge of a rebound that will put it at or near to full employment.

In one of his recent stump speeches, Clinton disingenuously said that under President Obama’s direction the economy is “ahead of schedule.” Clinton, however, grudgingly admitted that a complete recovery could be ten years away. [A Former Critic, Bill Clinton Stumps for Obama, by Dave Boyer, Washington Times, April 29, 2012]

The ratio of new legal immigrants to the numbers of job seekers is 1:1. That is, every legal immigrant receives work authorization and can look for scarce jobs along with the millions of unemployed Americans.

Unless someone turns on the lights up on Capitol Hill, American worker displacement will continue indefinitely.

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