The U.S. labor force has witnessed a historic influx of foreign-born workers, as per recent Labor Department data. This comes amidst labor shortages and more Americans retiring, underlining the increasing importance of immigrant contributions to the labor market.
Over the years, there’s been a steady increase in the proportion of foreign-born labor. In 2022, the number of foreign-born workers in the U.S. rose significantly to 29.8 million, up approximately 6% from the previous year. Conversely, the number of native-born workers saw a minimal 1% increase. This can be attributed to a larger share of the immigrant population being of working age (18-64), at 77%, compared to about 59% of the native-born population.
Despite this, the relative size of the immigrant population has remained stable over the past two decades, at 13.6% of the total U.S. population in 2021. Foreign-born workers tend to occupy different roles than native-born workers and typically earn less. Their median weekly income in 2022 was $945, or 87% of their native-born counterparts’ earnings.
Contrary to the belief that foreign-born workers are taking jobs from Americans, there were ample jobs available in 2022, with two jobs for every job-seeker at times. The unemployment rate also continued to hover around a record low.
Amidst decreasing workforces, many wealthier nations are revamping immigration policies to attract more workers and combat inflation. However, immigration policy in the U.S. remains a contentious political issue. As Phillip Connor, a senior demographer at FWD.US, an immigration advocacy group, stated, “If you want a growing workforce, without immigration, that isn’t going to happen.”