Rutgers’ Report Confirms the Obvious: American Workers Unhappy, Pessimistic

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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 9, 2014

What about the Immigration Variable?

Ironically, just before the Labor Day weekend, Rutgers University released its report titled “Unhappy, Worried, and Pessimistic: Americans in the Aftermath of the Great Recession.” Lately, discouraged workers have been the subject of much interest.

Rutgers’ findings surprise few. Despite Bureau of Labor Statistic monthly reports that announce lower levels of unemployment, most Americans don’t think the economy improved in 2013 or will improve in 2015. Although immigration wasn’t a variable in Rutgers’ research, it could have had an influence, perhaps subliminal, on some of the responses from disgruntled Americans.

Two-thirds of the 1,153 participants said that they’re “not secure in their jobs” and are “highly stressed.” Only one in three respondents thinks that the average worker is “better [off] than workers in other countries.”

We have no way to know if those polled have more than a passing knowledge of immigration and its relationship to jobs. But if they do, that would further explain why so many American workers feel threatened and unhappy. Heightened concern about immigrants displacing Americans in the job market is understandable. According to a Center for Immigration Studies report based on the federal Current Population Survey, all the net gain in employment since 2000 went to immigrants. During the same period, unemployed native-born workers increased by 17 million.

With an estimated 8 million illegal immigrants holding jobs and with President Obama making loud noises about giving work permits to 5 million aliens, Americans are understandably anxious. Then, there’s this headline news in the Washington Post last week: Obama is considering proposals from big business and immigration advocates to greatly increase the numbers of green cards for high-tech workers, relatives of United States’ citizens or permanent residents. Each new green card holder represents another legally authorized worker who can compete for job openings or who could possibly offer to work for a lower salary than an existing American employee earns.

No wonder so many Americans are concerned about their jobs. No one on Capitol Hill speaks for them.

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