Immigrant Share of U.S. Workers Highest on Record

New government data reveals a considerable contribution from immigrants to the U.S. labor market, with nearly one in five workers last year being foreign-born individuals with non-American citizen parents. This represents a record-high share of the workforce and signifies a reversal of the pandemic-induced decline that occurred in 2021. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of immigrants in the workforce rose to 18.1% in 2022, up from 17.4% the previous year.

This data emerges amidst heightened attention on immigration, triggered by the expiration of Title 42—an emergency immigration measure that facilitated the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of migrants to Mexico or their home countries due to the pandemic. Additionally, certain states like Texas and Florida are enacting new legislation aimed at tightening immigration regulations.

Economists have argued that the decrease in immigration during the pandemic contributed to labor market constraints experienced in recent years. This decline coincided with two other demographic trends further reducing the pool of available workers: a significant number of retiring baby boomers and a declining birth rate among Americans.

U.S. Census data affirms the rebound of immigration in 2022, reporting the largest annual increase in immigrants since 2010. Approximately 1 million people immigrated to the U.S. last year, a substantial surge from the 376,000 individuals in 2021.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights that foreign-born workers had a lower unemployment rate than native-born workers in 2022. The jobless rate for foreign-born workers stood at 3.4% compared to 3.7% for U.S.-born individuals.

An analysis reveals a significant disparity among men, with 77% of immigrant males over the age of 16 participating in the workforce, while the figure for native-born individuals is 66%.

Foreign-born workers are more likely to be employed in service industry, natural resources, construction, and maintenance jobs, as well as in production, transportation, and material moving roles. In contrast, American-born workers are more inclined towards management and professional positions.

Median weekly wages indicate a slight difference, with foreign-born workers earning a median wage of $945 per week, slightly lower than the $1,087 per week earned by their American-born counterparts.

Around 50% of foreign-born workers are Hispanic, approximately 25% are Asian, 16% are White, and 10% are Black, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Educational attainment levels differ significantly, with the analysis revealing that 18.3% of foreign-born workers in 2022 lacked a high school diploma, in contrast to 3.4% of U.S.-born employees.

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