Politicians talk incessantly about job creation, yet who among them is proposing curtailing immigration as a way to put Americans back to work? Growing the U.S. population at a faster rate than the economy is not a “jobs plan,” it’s an ongoing disaster for American workers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its numbers for October showing the unemployment rate dropping to 9.0% with 80,000 jobs added to the economy. This hasn’t generated much enthusiasm from commentators. As one market analyst put it, “things are so bad that this looks good.” While it is good news that the unemployment rate did not go up, this does not necessarily mean that there are fewer people in the United States who are out of work; only that according to government metrics there were fewer people in the United States “unemployed” in October than there were in September.
Why is the economy not gaining traction, even with net job gains? A key reason is that the U.S. economy cannot keep up with population growth, and economists recognize that the rate of job creation is far too low for there to be much improvement in unemployment over the long-term. The Economic Policy Institute found in February 2010 that in order to keep up with population growth the U.S. economy would need to add 400,000 jobs every month for three years just to get back to the pre-recession employment level. Suffice it to say, we are well off that pace.
The better gauge of the employment situation in the United States is the U-6 measure, which is the number of workers involuntarily working part-time and so-called “marginally attached” workers — those who want to work and are seeking employment intermittingly, and those who have given up hope of finding work due to the condition of the job market. For October, the U-6 was 16.2 percent representing just over 25 million people. The U-6 measure has been over 16 percent since June. Sustained unemployment and underemployment are the reasons economists are so pessimistic about our ongoing “recovery.”
The U.S. working-age population grew by 198,000 between September and October. Included in that number are those who choose not to work for a variety of reasons, but the BLS does count those who are “not in the labor force…who currently want a job.” This number grew by 162,000 in October 2011 and has increased by 536,000 since October 2010. These persons are not considered “officially” unemployed.
Immigration accounted for more than half of the U.S. population growth since 2000, and the foreign-born population is growing four times faster than the native-born. Immigration (including guest worker programs) adds about 1.5 million new workers to the United States every year. Those who defend these policies argue that immigration grows the economy and creates jobs. If that were true, our unemployment rate would be going down, which clearly it is not. In the face of sustained high levels of immigration, this problem is not going to go away any time soon.