1/5 of US workforce is foreign-born.

Record Levels of Foreign-Born Workers in American Workforce

The American workforce is experiencing a surge in immigration, with foreign-born workers reaching record levels last year. According to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers born in other nations comprised 18.1% of the workforce in 2022, up from 17.4% in 2021. This phenomenon comes as the nation’s economy grapples with labor shortages and worldwide lockdowns.

Who Makes Up the Foreign-Born Labor Force?

Hispanics account for nearly half of the foreign-born labor force, while Asians account for one-quarter of the foreign-born labor force. Average weekly earnings for foreign-born workers were $945 last year, while weekly earnings for their native-born counterparts were $1,087.

Occupational Differences Between Native-Born and Foreign-Born Workers

Native-born workers were more likely than foreign-born workers to hold positions in management, professional, and sales occupations, while the latter were more likely to work in service, natural resources, construction, logistics, and maintenance. Labor force participation among native-born males was 66.0% compared to 77.4% for foreign-born men.

Immigration Policies and the Labor Market

The heightened level of foreign-born workers as a share of the overall workforce occurs as the United States and other nations reverse public health mandates that slowed immigration and temporary residency. Illegal immigration has meanwhile soared to record levels over the past two years. Critics of immigration policies forwarded by the White House have asserted that lackluster emphasis on securing the border and increased resources for migrants who enter the country have worsened the crisis.

The Impact on the Labor Market

The labor market over the past three years has widely been considered a bright spot in an otherwise dismal economic landscape marked by record inflation and persistent supply chain bottlenecks. Low labor force participation across the economy, on the other hand, has worsened both trends as businesses raise wages to fill their payrolls and attract or retain more workers. Excess retirements amid the lockdown-induced recession have been identified as a factor contributing to decreased labor force participation.

Foreign-Born Workers in Numbers

There were 30.0 million foreign-born workers in the United States as of last month, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, eclipsing the 27.7 million workers counted in the month before the lockdowns and significantly surpassing 22.0 million workers three years ago. There were meanwhile 131.1 million native-born workers last month, according to more data, a figure which remains below levels recorded before the recession. Foreign-born workers composed some 15.0% of the workforce in 2005, according to more data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The share of the American workforce composed of foreign-born workers rose to record levels last year.”

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