Job Growth in Texas – Responding to Criticism

In our new report on jobs in Texas we showed that newly arrived immigrants got most of the recent job growth in that state. There has been some criticism of the report, some from people who apparently did not read it. The comments below, which were forwarded to us, seem to be representative, so I want to address them.

This critic concluded that our numbers don't add up, but unfortunately it's the criticism that doesn't add up: He or she uses different quarters for comparison of job growth numbers than we used, then compares that number to Department of Homeland Security estimates of illegal aliens that are for yet another different time period, and then confuses new arrival data with net growth in the illegal population.

Critic states:

Since Jan. 2007, Texas has created 384,700 net new jobs." Source: Texas Jobs Statistics from US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics/Total Nonfarm Seasonally Adjusted Change from Jan. 2007 – Aug. 2011

My response: First, we are very clear in the second bullet-point of the report, and in the press release, that our comparison is the second quarter of 2007 to the second quarter of 2011, not January 2007 to August 2011, as in the statistic cited above. We found total growth of 279,000. Thus the critic's point does not make any sense. It is important to compare the same quarters across years so as to better control for seasonality; using different months will produce different results. If we had done January 2007 to August 2011 the job growth numbers might be higher, but so would the immigration numbers. In fact the number might look worse for Gov. Perry, not better. I chose the quarters I did because the second quarter of 2011 is the most recent quarterly public-use data that is available, and the second quarter of 2007 was before the recession.

Critic states:

The Department of Homeland Security data cited in the CIS report estimates that 60,000 illegal immigrants have arrived in Texas since 2007. Source: Department of Homeland Security report, Page 4,
So if Texas created 384,700 jobs since 2007 and 40% of that is 153,880… and the CIS says 60,000 illegal immigrants arrived in Texas since 2007, then their conclusion must be false and numerically impossible.

My response: Note first the basis for this critic's claim are different quarters than we used for our comparisons, so his or her comparison is already mistaken. Moreover, this critic does not understand DHS numbers or the numbers in our report. First, the newest DHS numbers only go to January 1, 2010, not August 2011 (which is when the period ends for the job growth number he/she is using). Thus there is more than a year and a half of new arrivals of illegal aliens he/she is not considering, that are included in our analysis. This means the critic's look at job growth goes to August 2011, but the DHS estimate of the illegal population cited goes to only January 1, 2010. A year and a half can make a big difference in new arrivals in the case of Texas.

Equally important, the critic is confusing growth with new arrivals. The critic states that DHS estimates show "60,000 illegal immigrants have arrived in Texas since 2007." This is simply wrong.

The DHS reports growth in the Texas illegal population, not new arrivals; our analysis is of new arrivals. Each year some illegals return home or, in the case of Texas, leave the state, others get legal status (and thus stop being illegal), and some die. Thus, the number of new arrivals is always greater than the net increase. (The DHS data show this phenomenon clearly and I have a discussion of this issue in my report.) I estimate new arrivals of illegals at 113,000 for Q2 2007 to Q2 2011 for Texas. It is worth noting that DHS estimates growth of 80,000 in Texas's illegal population January 1, 2008, to January 1, 2010. Although we are measuring new arrivals and DHS is measuring growth, and we are using to Current Population Survey to create our estimates while DHS is using the American Community Survey, and our analysis is measuring a longer period of time, our numbers are really not that different from those of DHS.

In my view, looking at new arrivals is more relevant than net changes because those arriving in the country directly reflect both those admitted legally as well as the level of new illegal immigration. (This question of the gross inflow of new arrivals vs. the net increase is one identified by economist Pia Orrenius in a Dallas Morning News posting on our report today.) In contrast, net changes reflect many factors, such as deaths of immigrants already here or a decision by an existing immigrant to leave the country. In other words, for policy purposes, the flow of new arrivals is the key issue because the size of that flow is a direct result of policy decisions, whereas the net change is affected by decisions outside the realm of policy. As an illustration, say that one million immigrants are admitted through the federal immigration program (or are permitted by the government to enter illegally) but at the same time, 900,000 other immigrants leave and another 100,000 die. The net increase in the immigrant population would be zero – and yet there would be 1 million new people in the labor market who would not otherwise have been there.

Finally, it should be remembered that the overall immigrant numbers in our report are unaffected by the share which we estimate to be illegal. If we over-estimated the share of illegal immigrants (which I do not think is the case), then the legal numbers must be correspondingly higher. Either way, the number of newly arrived immigrants is 225,000 between the second quarter of 2007 and same quarter in 2011. Thus the key question raised by the findings remains: Does it make sense to allow so many new immigrants into the country?