Analysis: In Obama’s economy, immigrants outpace native-born Americans

Immigrant job-seekers have gained far more in President Barack Obama’s weak economy than have native-born Americans, according to government data.

Since Obama’s inauguration, employers have fired and hired millions of workers during the bust and slow recovery. The net result is that they employed more than 1.7 million more immigrants — but only 418,000 more native-born Americans — in August 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ household survey.

That number “seems like a usable tool on the table if [Gov. Mitt] Romney wanted to use it … to drive up [his] numbers,” a GOP operative told The Daily Caller.

Romney may want to leverage those numbers. He’s lagging among a winnable and critical constituency — swing-voting, working class whites in the Midwest — whom Washington, D.C. has forced to compete against the huge influx of low-skill, low-wage immigrants.

“The number sounds right,” said Mark Weaver, a GOP consultant in Ohio. “There are parts of Ohio that would be receptive to the message that Barack Obama has opened the door to illegal immigration that is taking jobs from Ohioans.”

The numbers

The job data is collected in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly survey of American households. The survey shows that immigrants won three out of every four jobs added since January 2009’s employment totals, even though immigrants are only one-sixth of the workforce in a nation of 310 million people.

Foreign-born employed workforce
Native born employment

Over the last year, from August 2011 to August 2012, immigrants scored one out of every three new jobs while the economy’s growth slowed to a crawl. The number of employed native borns — the BLS’s term — rose by only 1.436 million, while the number of employed immigrants rose by 788,000.

The BLS also has a second calculation of employment that is based on reports from employers.

The employer survey suggests that new immigrants actually won approximately the same number of jobs added to the national total since January 2009.

Non-farm employers reported 131.6 million employees in January 2009, and 133.1 million employees in August 2012, which is a net gain of only 1.5 million over three years.

BLS data also shows that 1.5 million immigrants, legal and illegal, short-term and long-term, have arrived since 2008 and have found jobs, said Steven Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Total workforce employer survey

(Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Even when the BLS data is viewed in terms most favorable to Obama, immigrants are gaining far more from Obama’s policies than are native born Americans.

The 1.5 million immigrants with jobs after 2008 amounted to 33 percent of the 4.5 million extra private-sector jobs reported by employers — and claimed by Obama — since the recovery began in June 2009.

“The reality is probably closer to the 30 percent [number] … between June 2009 and August 2012,” said Randy Capps, a demographer and policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, a left-wing, pro-immigration group.

Immigrants’ extra gains, he said, are likely caused by their leading role in low-wage and temporary work, and by their greater ability to move away in search of jobs.

However, even that relatively favorable percentage will likely be worse by January 2013, no matter which estimate best reflects reality.

That’s because of Obama’s campaign-trail decision to grant work permits to as many as 1.26 million younger illegal immigrants over the next year, according to the Migration Policy Institute’s estimate. Of that influx, only 6 percent have attended two or more years of college, and roughly 27 percent do not even have high-school degrees, the MPI says.

Fifty-eight percent of these immigrants are already working or seeking work, according to the MPI. If they gain above-board jobs at established companies, they’ll nudge the MPI’s 30 percent estimate upwards and leave more native-born Americans and legal immigrants unemployed, in poverty and dependent on government support.

On Sept. 27, the Bureau of Labor Services announced a revision of earlier job estimates, which added 386,000 people to the employer survey of job rolls. That revision does not include data on immigrants, and does not change the household survey.

From January 2008 to March 2012, the country took in 4.5 million immigrants — including some illegals — into the United States, or roughly 60,000 working-age people per month, said Camarota.

“We’ve tried the high-volume, low-skill immigration approach for the last three decades,” he said. “If we want a low-unemployment, high wage economy, it would make sense to have low-volume, high-skill immigration.”