When you think about all of the arguments that you’ve heard against bolstering our number of foreign-born citizens through immigration reform, what are some of the most common ones that you hear?
Perhaps you’ve heard that immigrants abuse welfare, refuse to assimilate, commit terrorist acts, or dilute American culture… Or that opening our nation’s arms to immigrants will make America appear slack on its laws and borders.
While these arguments are relatively popular (though proven in study after study incorrect), it seems that the idea of the “job-stealing” immigrant is the most prevalent one.
It must be true, right? Americans are being denied their right to work in favor of immigrants who will work longer and harder for less pay.
We’ve heard it around the dinner table at Thanksgiving, at PTO meetings, and in “news” articles shared on social media… Headlines that scream some version of “Illegal Aliens Taking US Jobs” or “American Workers Fired in Favor of Immigrants” are plastered across our newsfeed, using out-of-context statistics to support untrue arguments.
Yet, when we look at the numbers, they simply don’t add up to support this claim.
Let’s take a look at what the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics has to say about the current climate of the American job market.
BLS 2019 Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary
Every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases an updated version of their ongoing Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary. This documents details several nuances of the American job economy, including the number of job openings, the number of new hires, the number of separations, and a summarised net change in employment.
Here’s what the most recent edition, released September 10, had to say. These statistics represent July 2019 rates:
As of the last day of July, there were approximately 7.2 million open jobs in the United States. This number has changed little over the past year, but reflects a nearly record high, recorded at 7.3 million in February of this year. This number is up from 6.6 million in May 2018. According to BLS, this represents a 4.5% opening rate.
Job openings in wholesale trade and federal government decreased by 55,000 and 11,000, respectively. Jobs in information and mining/logging increased by 42,000 and 11,000, respectively.
The number of new hires rose in July, up to 6.0 million, a 237,000 climb from the previous month. The BLS considers this insignificant in terms of the macro scale of the American job market, noting it as “little changed.”
According to BLS, separations include quits, layoffs, discarges, and other separations. Quit rates, wherein an employee voluntarily leaves their employment, rose to 5.8 million, representing an all-time high. The number of layoffs and discharges was “little changed,” holding at around 1.8 million, or 1.2%. This all represents a total separation rate of 3.8%
Net Change in Employment
BLS’ summary notes, “Over the 12 months ending in July, hires totaled 69.6 million and separations totaled 67.0 million, yielding a net employment gain of 2.6 million. These totals include workers who may have been hired and separated more than once during the year.”
The American Unemployment Rate
In a complementary BLS document to the one above, called “The Employment Situation-- August 2019,” the Bureau found that the number of unemployeed people in the United States “was essentially unchanged at 6.0 million.”
This statistic represents any person aged 16 or older “if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior 4 weeks, and are currently available for work.” This description applies to 3.4% of adult men, 3.3% of adult women, and 12.6% of teenagers aged 16-20.
Of those, 20.6 % had been unemployed for more than 27 weeks.
Also of note: 1.6 million people were “marginally attached to the labor force.” This means that they were “not in the labor force, wanted and were available to work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months,” but could not be listed as “unemployed” because they had not looked for work in the 4 weeks proceeding the survey.
A Holistic Picture of the American Job Economy
When we combine both of these resources from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we can paint a more holistic picture of the job market available to Americans.
Compared to the 150 million Americans in the United States workforce, immigration does very little to affect the availability of jobs. With 7.2 million job openings and 6.0 million people who are unemployed in the US, we are left with 1.2 million jobs that still need to be filled.
Mathematically, the United States could accept 14 times the amount of legal, visa-holding immigrants without ever touching the jobs of every unemployed, native-born American.
Increasing the number of tax-paying, employed citizens through immigration would aid in the fight against depopulation and the impending bankruptcy of the social security system. It could help bolster dying rural areas, bring jobs to underrepresented counties, and counteract the rapidly dropping birth rate
So, why aren’t we?