Unskilled Immigration Lowers Labor-Force Participation

By Steven A. Camarota on July 26, 2019

On its face, the unemployment rate of 3.7 percent in June of this year would seem like great news for American workers. But the official rate includes only those who say they have actively looked for a job in the last four weeks. By contrast, the labor-force-participation rate — which measures all those working or looking for work—has been declining for at least three decades, especially among the less educated. This long-term decline in work has contributed to a host of social problems, from the opioid epidemic to crime to the breakdown of the family. By allowing in large numbers of less educated immigrants who compete with natives, our immigration policy partly accounts for this decline in work. More important, reversing the decline will be especially difficult as long as less skilled immigration is allowed to continue at its current rate.

Economists typically focus on men when they want to examine trends in employment that are unrelated to the changing role of women in society. Among men ages 25 to 64 without a bachelor’s degree, 81 percent were in the labor force as of the first quarter of this year. Despite the strong economy, this figure is down from 84 percent at the peak of the last expansion, in 2007. That rate was actually lower than it had been at the prior peak, in 2000, when 85 percent were in the labor force, which was lower than the peak in 1989, when 87 percent were in the labor force. Men in all educational groups have been on a downward employment trend, but the decline becomes more pronounced as the educational level goes down. Among women, labor-force participation increased steadily until 2000, but it has followed the pattern for men since then. 

[Read the full article at National Review Online]