Obama to push immigration, amnesty as economic boost

Obama also used his El Paso speech to argue that amnesty of illegal immigrants would boost wages for middle-class Americans.

“One way to strengthen the middle class in America is to reform the immigration system so that there is no longer a massive underground economy that exploits a cheap source of labor while depressing wages for everybody else,” he said. “I want incomes for middle-class families to rise again … that’s why immigration reform is an economic imperative.”

However, numerous studies show that low-skilled Americans and recent immigrants lose economic ground to newer immigrants.

In 2010, for example, the EPI analyzed multiple studies and concluded that the wages of U.S. low-skilled workers were nudged down slightly by immigration in the seven years prior to 2006.

Worst hit by immigration, the report said, were recent immigrants. “A key finding in the results is that the workers who stand to lose the most from new immigration are those workers most substitutable for new immigrants, namely earlier immigrants,” said the report.

Those employment pressures are illustrated by Nevada, where Obama is slated to deliver his campaign-style speech on Tuesday.

Since 2009, wages for employed Nevadans have risen by roughly 2 percent a year.

In December Nevada’s formal unemployment rate was 10.2 percent of the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s tied with Rhode Island, but far above the 5.5 percent rate in Minnesota or the 6.7 percent rate in Ohio.

However, Nevada’s 10.2 rate only includes people who say they’ve looked for jobs in the last four weeks. It excludes people who have temporarily or permanently given up looking for jobs, or who taken part-time jobs.

This exclusion dramatically lowers the state’s reported unemployment rate.

In November 2012, Nevada’s workforce was 1.36 million, while employment remained at 1.21 million, ensuring a formal unemployment rate of 10.2 percent.

But that’s only 20,000 extra jobs above the trough of the recession in October 2010, when the state’s workforce was larger by 200,000 people. The missing 180,000 have since dropped out the workforce, excluding them from the state’s employment rate.

If the 200,000 missing people were included, the state would have an unemployed population of roughly 350,000, or roughly 22 percent of the 1.56 million workforce.

Nationally, roughly 23 million people, or 14 percent of the workforce, are unemployed or underemployed.

Follow Neil on Twitter