More than 800,000 Americans gave up hope and stopped looking for work in April 2014, five years after President Barack Obama was inaugurated.
The startling change in the workforce was accompanied by good news show that 288,000 new jobs were added to the economy. That’s roughly three times the normal monthly growth of the working-age population, including roughly 50,000 extra immigrants.
The combination of fewer people looking for work, plus the increased number of employed, dropped the formal employment rate from 6.7 percent to 6.3 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But the percentage of Americans in the workforce dropped by the same 0.4 percent, down to 62.8 percent. That’s the lowest level since March 1978, during the middle of President Jimmy Carter’s term, when relatively few women worked.
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, a leading GOP advocate for American workers, called for a change in the White House jobs policies. “We must steadfastly pursue policies that create jobs and raise wages … [by encouraging] more American energy, a streamlined tax and regulatory system, trade and immigration policies that defend U.S. workers and their interests,” he said in a statement.
Sessions is the most outspoken Senate critic of the president’s effort to increase immigration, which now adds roughly one million new immigrants and 650,000 non-agricultural guest workers to the economy each year, alongside the arrival of four million Americans graduating from school or colleges.
Obama is working with other progressives and with business groups to increase the inflow of legal immigrants and guest workers to roughly four million per year. That inflow would be equal to the number of Americans who join the workforce each year.
A June report by the Congressional Budget Office said the increased inflow would shift more of the nation’s annual income from workers to Wall Street investors. The percentage of income going to investors is at a 85-year record.
“Since December 2007, the U.S. population has grown by 15.1 million but there are half a million fewer people holding jobs,” said Sessions. “The median household income has fallen by $2,268 after adjusting for inflation, and wages are lower than they were in 1999 [and] the share of households in the middle class is shrinking, while the share in the bottom segment of the income distribution is rising.”
Most of the Americans who gave up looking for jobs in April were blue-collar workers.
“The high-skill and low-skill labor markets went opposite directions,” according to a statement from Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum.
“Those with some college or a degree saw participation rise and unemployment fall [and] those with a high school degree or less saw participation drop sharply,” said Holtz-Eakin, who has repeatedly supported calls for increased immigration.