BLS data offers more background to immigration debate

All the better to help navigate the election-year debate swirling over immigration policy, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released a summary of labor force characteristics of foreign-born workers in the U.S.

The figures represent workers who are refugees, temporary residents, undocumented workers and persons who have been legally admitted to the U.S.

Among the data:

▪  In 2015, there were 26.3 million foreign-born persons in the U.S. labor force. That’s 16.7 percent of the total.

▪  The unemployment rate for foreign-born persons was 4.9 percent in 2015, down from 5.6 percent the year before. The current unemployment rate compares with 5.4 percent for native-born workers.

▪  In 2015, Hispanics accounted for 48.8 percent of the foreign-born labor force while Asians accounted for 24.1 percent. This compares with 10.2 percent of Hispanics and 1.9 percent of Asians in the native-born labor force.

▪  Foreign-born workers were more likely that native-born workers to be employed in service occupations and other sectors including construction, maintenance and transportation. Native-born workers were more likely to work in management, professional, sales and office occupations.

▪  Median weekly earnings of foreign-born, full-time wage and salary workers were $681 in 2015, compared with $837 for native-born workers.

▪  Men accounted for 58.3 percent of the foreign-born workforce compared with 52.2 percent of the native-born workforce.

▪  In 2015, 23.9 percent of the foreign-born labor force 25 years old and over had not completed high school, compared with 4.6 percent of the native-born labor force. In closer proportion, 34.9 percent had earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 39.1 percent. Foreign-born workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher earned a median weekly income of $1,259, compared with $1,225 for the native-born.

▪  78.2 percent of foreign-born men in the U.S. participated in the labor force, compared with 67.3 percent of native-born men.

▪  In 2015, foreign-born workers comprised 24 percent of the labor force in the West; 19.5 percent in the Northeast; 15.5 percent in the South; and 8.7 percent in the Midwest.

C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535