Most Employment Growth Since Pandemic Has Gone to Immigrants

Labor force participation for “prime age” U.S.-born men remains at historic lows

By Steven A. Camarota on June 10, 2024

President Biden claimed in April that the United States has “the best economy in the world”, with a job market that the New York Times calls “historically strong”. Unfortunately, too many U.S.-born are missing out on the supposed “job-creation boom.” It is true that the country has added millions of jobs since the height of Covid. However, most of that employment growth has gone to immigrants, both legal and illegal. The government’s household survey shows that there were only 971,000 more U.S.-born Americans employed in May 2024 compared to May 2019 prior to the pandemic, while the number of employed immigrants has increased by 3.2 million.


labor force figure


It is certainly true that the unemployment rate is low, but “unemployed” people include only those who have looked for a job in the past four weeks. As we have discussed in prior publications, the labor force participation rate — the share working or looking for work — has declined dramatically among U.S.-born men since the 1960s, particularly for those without a bachelor’s degree. While labor force participation among these groups has roughly returned to pre-pandemic levels, the rate in 2024 remains at or near historical lows relative to other peaks in the business cycle. This is true even for U.S.-born men who are in the “prime” 25-54 age range for working.


participation rate


Advocates insist there are simply not enough workers without immigrants. This argument ignores the long-term deterioration in labor force participation among U.S.-born men. Moreover, there is a significant literature showing that being out of the labor force is associated with social pathologies such as crime, social isolation, overdose deaths, and welfare dependency. Policymakers should consider encouraging work among the millions of working-age Americans on the economic sidelines rather than ignoring the problem and continuing to allow in large numbers of legal and illegal immigrants.