People have been migrating to America in search of the “American Dream.” Unfortunately, the topic of foreign-born people in the United States workforce has been historically sensitive. From the exploitation of the Chinese laborers who helped build the transcontinental railroad and the country’s inexcusable history of slavery to recent debates surrounding migrant Hispanic workers, there is a lot to say about immigrant labor in America.
In this article, we’ll examine some statistics about immigrant workers, the demographics of the foreign-born workforce, and the impact of COVID-19.
Immigrants are a vital part of the American economy. Globally, foreign-born workers account for almost 5% of the total labor force. In the US, however, the number of foreign-born workers is over 17%. Immigrants account for a significant chunk of the workforce, contribute billions in taxes annually, and perform valuable work across industries. Let’s look at some statistics about foreign labor.
International migrant workers accounted for 4.9% of the global labor force in 2019. According to immigrant employment statistics, these foreign-born workers made up 69% of the total international migrant population of working age (15 and older.) Employment is one of the top reasons for international migration.
Last year, the share of foreign-born workers returned to the pre-pandemic level in 2019. In 2020, there was a slight drop to 17%. However, between 2020 and 2021, the labor force increased by 671,000 foreign-born workers.
According to immigrant wages statistics, foreign-born workers with lower levels of education typically earn less than native workers with the same level of education. However, foreign-born workers with at least a bachelor’s degree earn more than native-born workers with the same education level.
The unemployment rate for native-born Americans was 5.5% in May 2021. For foreign-born workers, including legal and illegal immigrants, it was 5.6%. According to job statistics on immigrants, both figures represent an increase from 3.5% for native-born Americans and 2.8% for foreign-born workers in 2019.
According to statistics, 65.6% of foreign-born workers aged 25 and older participated in the labor force in 2020, while native-born workers participated at the rate of 62.5%. This gap indicates that a larger share of the foreign-born labor force is either currently employed or actively looking for work.
According to immigration job statistics, 21.2% of foreign-born employees work in service industries as opposed to 14.4% of native-born service industry workers.
Foreign-born workers are also more likely than their native-born peers to have jobs in construction and maintenance. Native-born workers are more likely to hold management and professional positions or have sales and office jobs than foreign-born workers.
Statistics about migrant workers show that nearly half of the US foreign-born labor force is Hispanic. What else can statistics tell us about the people in our foreign labor force? Let’s examine some demographic breakdowns to learn about the typical ages, genders, and education levels of foreign-born American workers.
According to immigrants in the workforce statistics, participation rates differ across age groups.
For example, 82.5% of 25–34-year olds and 83.3% of 35–44-year-olds are native-born workers. Foreign-born workers in the same age groups account for 75.9% and 78.5% of the labor force, respectively. For people aged 55 and older, however, the foreign-born labor participation rate is higher by 1–3%.
English proficiency is a key indicator of employability for foreign-born workers. According to immigration job statistics, of the foreign-born population aged five and older, 16% speak only English at home, while 37% speak both English and other languages “very well.” The remaining 47% speak English “less than very well.”
In 2020, 76.6% of foreign-born men participated in the workforce, compared to 65.9% of their native-born peers. Job statistics on immigrants indicate that approximately 53.2% of non-native women participated in the workforce, compared to 56.8% of native-born women.
In 2020, 47.5% of the foreign-born labor force was Hispanic, and 25.1% was Asian. The percentages of Hispanic and Asian people in the native-born labor force are much lower—12% and 2.4%, respectively.
The percentage of White native-born laborers is much higher than the percentage of White foreign-born workers. According to immigrant employment statistics, around 16.2% of the foreign-born workforce is White, compared to 70.7% of the native-born workforce.
Immigrants are an integral part of thriving American communities. Let’s look at how much they contribute to the economy and the share of immigrant employees in different US states.
The most recent stats show that immigrant-led households paid $80.8 billion in federal and $38.9 billion in state and local taxes in 2018. According to undocumented workers statistics, undocumented immigrants paid $4.5 billion in federal and $2.5 billion in state and local taxes that year.
According to Florida immigration statistics, there are over 437,690 immigrant business owners in Florida, which accounts for about 33% of the total number of self-employed residents. In Orlando, they make up 36% of the total number of entrepreneurs, and in Jackson, they account for about 20% of business owners. In Miami, foreign-born business owners account for 57% of all business owners.
There were 47,418 foreign-born workers in Maine in 2018. They are most prevalent in the healthcare industry, with 5,871 foreign-born workers. Other industries where foreign-born workers are numerous include retail, educational services, and manufacturing, with 4,416, 3,899, and 3,755 workers, respectively. According to Maine immigration statistics, many of Maine’s immigrant workers are Canadian.
Colorado has a growing immigrant population, primarily composed of people from Mexico. They account for 12% of the labor force and typically work in construction, accommodation and food services, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail. In 2016, immigrant workers made up only 5% of Colorado’s workforce, indicating that Colorado’s immigrant population has grown in the last few years.
According to Colorado immigration statistics, immigrants in Colorado pay billions in taxes and contribute billions to the state’s economy.
The economic decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected foreign-born workers. The unemployment rate for immigrant workers is traditionally higher than the unemployment rate for native-born people, but in 2020 the gap widened significantly.
Immigrants are also more likely to work in jobs deemed essential during the crisis, putting them on the frontlines of the pandemic at a disproportionately higher rate than their native-born peers.
The unemployment rate for both foreign and native-born workers in the US rose in 2020. The immigrant unemployment rate grew to 9.2%, a sharp increase from 3.1% in 2019. The unemployment rate for native-born people in 2020 was 7.8%, compared to 3.8% in 2019. Unemployment statistics show that the unemployment rate for 2022 is around 4%.
In addition to a sharp increase in unemployment, the percentage of people no longer participating in the labor force also increased from 2019 to 2021. According to immigrant employment statistics, about 9.4 million foreign-born and 45.8 million native-born Americans were neither employed nor looking for work in 2021.
According to estimates based on illegal immigration workforce statistics, it’s possible that undocumented immigrants may have faced a lower rate of unemployment than their documented peers in the last two years, with 5.9% of documented immigrants facing unemployment.
Foreign-born workers are more likely to do jobs that don’t require higher education. The highest unemployment rate was 11.3% for freight, stock, and material movers. High unemployment rates were also recorded in jobs like cashiers and housekeepers with 10.7% and 9.9%, respectively.
Immigrants make up a large percentage of the US workforce. They perform vital roles across many different sectors. The majority of foreign-born workers speak English very well, and many speak multiple other languages.
Immigrant workers have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis. They typically face higher rates of unemployment than native-born workers, especially since the pandemic caused a massive economic decline in 2020.
In the United States, about 17% of the workforce is foreign-born. The total size of the American workforce is about 164 million people, so there are approximately 27 million foreign-born workers in the States.
Foreign workers participate in the labor force at a higher rate than their native-born peers. They are employed across industries, including management, sales, service, agriculture, manufacturing, education, and healthcare.
Immigrants increase the size of the workforce. Over 17% of the American workforce is foreign-born, paying billions in taxes and contributing greatly to the economy.
A diverse workforce is a key to fostering creativity and economic growth. According to diversity in the workplace statistics, inclusive businesses have a 120% higher chance of achieving financial goals. In addition, immigrants possess specialized skills that native-born people don’t always have.
The impact of immigration on the labor market depends on immigrant workers’ skills and whether those skills complement or replace the skills of native-born people. In the case that immigrant skills replace native-born skills, competition for jobs can increase, which can affect wages and unemployment. However, the population growth that immigration fuels also increases demand for goods and services, resulting in more job opportunities.
As for the argument that immigration increases unemployment among native-born people because immigrants steal American jobs, there is no statistical evidence to support this claim. Immigration has little to no impact on the employment status of native-born workers.
The manufacturing industry employs around 12% of the immigrant workforce in the United States. It’s one of the biggest employers of foreign-born workers in America.
According to immigrants in the workforce statistics, workers from Mexico and Central America rarely pursue higher education, making them more likely to do unskilled jobs than immigrants from Asia or Europe.