he unemployment rate for immigrants and the U.S.-born is 3.2 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively; however, these figures obscure the long-term decline in the labor force participation rate of the U.S.-born, particularly those without a bachelor’s degree. The unemployed only includes those who have actively looked for a job in the prior four weeks and does not include those entirely out of the labor force — neither working nor looking for work. The share of the working-age U.S.-born in the labor force remains below pre-pandemic levels and has been declining for decades. If the labor force participation rate for the U.S.-born in the fourth quarter of 2022 was what it had been in the fourth quarter of 2000, then 6.4 million more Americans would be in the labor force.
This analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies is based on the Current Population Survey (CPS), collected by the Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We focus on the peak years of economic expansion (2000, 2006, and 2019) as well as 2022 because it is the most recent quarterly data available. Immigrants (legal and illegal together) in the CPS are often referred to as the “foreign-born” and include all persons who were not U.S. citizens at birth — primarily naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents, long-term temporary visitors (e.g. guestworkers), and illegal immigrants.
Among the findings:
- There were 1.9 million fewer U.S.-born Americans working in the fourth quarter of 2022 than in the same quarter of 2019 before Covid. In contrast, the number of immigrants (legal and illegal) working was up two million over the same time period. The rapid growth in immigrant workers is well above the pre-pandemic trend line.
- There were a total of 5.5 million 16-plus unemployed immigrants and U.S.-born Americans in the fourth quarter of 2022 and the overall unemployment rate was just 3.3 percent.