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Record Level of Foreign Workers in U.S.

May 23, 2023

Diverse Group of Office Workers

The percentage of foreign-born workers in the United States labor force has reached its highest level in 27 years, according to a May 2023 report by the Labor Department. Immigrants made up 18.1% of the overall labor force in 2022. This is up from 17.4% in the previous year. The number of immigrants in the labor force went up by 1.8 million, which is more than half of the total increase of 3.1 million workers. How are these levels explained? The report says high labor demand, more and more retirements of native-born workers, and a slow population growth are the reasons why.

The increase in the immigrant labor force has helped alleviate labor shortages in various industries, particularly those requiring in-person work such as restaurants, construction, truck driving, and home healthcare. Immigrants often fill these positions because they go where job opportunities are plentiful. The jobless rate for foreign-born workers was also lower than that of native-born Americans, standing at 3.4% in 2022. The jobless rate for native-born Americans was 3.7% in the same period.

Even though the Covid-19 pandemic did impact immigration, foreign-born workers still managed to increase their share of the workforce. But these jobs tend to be concentrated in lower-paying industries due to skills, education, or language barriers. The report also highlights that foreign-born workers often lack the time and financial resources to undergo costly training for higher-paying jobs. Even so, there are exceptions in fields such as technology and medicine where immigrants excel.

The rising share of foreign-born workers in the U.S. labor force reflects the challenges posed by a slowing American population growth and an aging native-born workforce, but also brings attention to the crucial role immigrants play in filling job opportunities and contributing to the U.S. economy.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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