Labor Force Characteristics of Foreign-Born Workers Summary

For release 10:00 a.m. (EDT) Wednesday, May 22, 2013                  USDL-13-0991

Technical information:  (202) 691-6378  *  cpsinfo@bls.gov  *  www.bls.gov/cps
Media contact:          (202) 691-5902  *  PressOffice@bls.gov


             FOREIGN-BORN WORKERS: LABOR FORCE CHARACTERISTICS -- 2012


The unemployment rate for foreign-born persons in the United States was 8.1 
percent in 2012, down from 9.1 percent in 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor 
Statistics reported today. The jobless rate of native-born persons also fell 
to 8.1 percent in 2012, down from 8.9 percent in the prior year.

Data on nativity are collected as part of the Current Population Survey 
(CPS), a monthly sample survey of approximately 60,000 households. The 
foreign born are persons who reside in the United States but who were born 
outside the country or one of its outlying areas to parents who were not 
U.S. citizens. The foreign born include legally-admitted immigrants, 
refugees, temporary residents such as students and temporary workers, and 
undocumented immigrants. The survey data, however, do not separately 
identify the numbers of persons in these categories. For further information 
about the survey, see the Technical Note.

Highlights from the 2012 data:

  --In 2012, there were 25.0 million foreign-born persons in the U.S.
    labor force, comprising 16.1 percent of the total. (See table 1.)

  --Hispanics accounted for 48.3 percent of the foreign-born labor force
    in 2012, and Asians accounted for 23.7 percent. (See table 1.) (Data
    in this news release for persons who are white, black, or Asian do 
    not include those of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. Data on persons 
    of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity are presented separately.)

  --Foreign-born workers were more likely than native-born workers to
    be employed in service occupations; production, transportation, and
    material moving occupations; and natural resources, construction, and
    maintenance occupations. (See table 4.)

  --The median usual weekly earnings of foreign-born full-time wage
    and salary workers were $625 in 2012, compared with $797 for their
    native-born counterparts. (See table 5.) (Differences in earnings
    reflect a variety of factors, including variations in the
    distributions of foreign-born and native-born workers by educational
    attainment, occupation, industry, and geographic region.)

Demographic Characteristics

The demographic characteristics of the foreign-born labor force differ
from those of the native-born labor force. In 2012, men accounted for
57.6 percent of the foreign-born labor force, compared with 52.3
percent of the native-born labor force. By age, the proportion of the
foreign-born labor force made up of 25- to 54-year-olds (75.6 percent)
was higher than for the native-born labor force (63.4 percent). Labor
force participation is typically highest among persons in that age
bracket. (See table 1.)

In 2012, nearly half (48.3 percent) of the foreign-born labor force
was Hispanic, and almost one-quarter (23.7 percent) was Asian, compared 
with 9.5 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively, of the native-born labor force.
About 18.2 percent of the foreign-born labor force was white and 8.7 
percent was black, compared with 74.9 percent and 11.6 percent, respectively, 
of the native-born labor force.

In terms of educational attainment, 24.6 percent of the foreign-born 
labor force 25 years old and over in 2012 had not completed high school, 
compared with 5.1 percent of the native-born labor force. The foreign 
born were less likely than the native born to have some college or an 
associate degree--17.4 percent versus 30.1 percent. Similar proportions of 
foreign-born and native-born persons in the labor force had a bachelor's 
degree or higher (33.0 percent and 36.7 percent, respectively).

Labor Force

The share of the U.S. civilian labor force that was foreign born was 16.1 
percent in 2012; it was 15.9 percent in 2011. (See table 1.)

In 2012, the labor force participation rate of the foreign born was 66.3 
percent, compared with 63.2 percent for the native born. The labor force 
participation rate was 78.5 percent for foreign-born men and 68.6 percent 
for native-born men. Among women, 54.8 percent of the foreign born were 
labor force participants, compared with 58.2 percent of the native born.

Among the foreign born, the labor force participation rate for blacks was 
70.6 percent in 2012, little different from the participation rate for 
Hispanics (69.0 percent). The participation rate for Asians was 64.7 
percent, while that for whites was 60.1 percent. Among the native born, 
the labor force participation rates for Hispanics and whites were 63.9 percent and 
63.7 percent, respectively, higher than the rates for Asians (61.5 percent) 
and blacks (60.0 percent). The labor force participation rates for foreign-
born blacks, Asians, and Hispanics were higher than for their native-born 
counterparts, while the rate for foreign-born whites was lower than the 
rate for native-born whites.

In 2012, foreign-born mothers with children under 18 years old were less 
likely to be labor force participants than were native-born mothers--60.3 percent
versus 73.1 percent. Labor force participation differences between foreign-
born and native-born mothers were greater among those with younger children 
than among those with older children. The labor force participation rate 
of foreign-born mothers with children under age 6 was 52.1 percent in 
2012, much lower than that for native-born mothers with children under 
age 6 at 68.1 percent. Among women with children under age 3, the participation 
rate for the foreign born (47.1 percent) was 17.8 percentage points 
below that for native-born mothers (64.9 percent). The labor force
participation rates of foreign- and native-born fathers with children under 
age 18 were similar, at 93.8 percent and 92.9 percent, respectively. (See table 2.)

By region, the foreign born made up a larger share of the labor force in 
the West (23.9 percent) and in the Northeast (18.9 percent) than for the 
nation as a whole (16.1 percent) in 2012. In contrast, the foreign born 
made up a smaller share of the labor force than for the nation as a whole 
in the South (14.6 percent) and Midwest (8.2 percent). (See table 6.)

Unemployment

From 2011 to 2012, the unemployment rate of foreign-born workers declined 
from 9.1 percent to 8.1 percent. The unemployment rate for foreign-born men 
fell from 8.8 percent to 7.5 percent, and the rate for foreign-born women was down 
from 9.5 percent to 8.9 percent. Among the native born, the unemployment rate 
declined from 8.9 percent to 8.1 percent over the year. The rate for men fell from 
9.5 percent to 8.4 percent, while the rate for women was down from 8.3 percent to 7.7 
percent. (See table 1.)

Among the foreign born, Asians had an unemployment rate of 5.7 percent in 
2012, lower than the rates for whites (7.1 percent), blacks (11.1 percent), 
and Hispanics (9.1 percent). Among the native born, the jobless rate for 
blacks (14.3 percent) was higher than the rates for whites (6.6 percent), 
Asians (6.7 percent), and Hispanics (11.5 percent). The unemployment rates
for foreign-born blacks, Asians, and Hispanics were lower than for their 
native-born counterparts, while the rates for foreign-born and native-born 
whites were little different.

Occupation

In 2012, foreign-born workers were more likely than native-born workers 
to be employed in service occupations (25.2 percent versus 16.5 percent). Within
service occupations, two-thirds of the foreign born were employed in food 
preparation and serving related occupations and in building and grounds 
cleaning and maintenance occupations, whereas one-half of native-born 
service workers were employed in those occupations. Foreign-born workers 
also were more likely than native-born workers to be employed in production, 
transportation, and material moving occupations (15.5 percent versus 11.2 percent)
and in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations (12.7 percent
versus 8.3 percent). (See table 4.)

Native-born workers were more likely than foreign-born workers to be 
employed in management, professional, and related occupations (39.5 percent
versus 30.0 percent), and in sales and office occupations (24.6 percent versus 
16.5 percent).

Employed foreign-born men were more likely than their native-born 
counterparts to work in natural resources, construction, and maintenance 
occupations, and in service occupations. Compared with native-born women 
workers, employed foreign-born women were more likely to be in service 
occupations and in production, transportation, and material moving 
occupations. The disparity was especially great in service occupations. 
Among employed women, 33.2 percent of the foreign born worked in service 
occupations in 2012, compared with 19.4 percent of the native born. 
Employed native-born women were more likely than employed foreign-born 
women to be in sales and office occupations, 32.0 percent versus 22.6 percent.

Earnings

In 2012, the median usual weekly earnings of foreign-born, full-time wage 
and salary workers ($625) were 78.4 percent of the earnings of their 
native-born counterparts ($797). Among men, median earnings for the foreign 
born were $665 per week, while the native born earned $898 per week. The 
median usual weekly earnings for foreign-born women were $589, compared 
with $710 for native-born women. Differences in earnings reflect a variety 
of factors, including variations in the distributions of foreign-born 
and native-born workers by educational attainment, occupation, industry, 
and geographic region. (See table 5.)

Among the major race and ethnicity groups, Hispanic foreign-born full-time 
wage and salary workers earned 78.1 percent as much as their native-born 
counterparts in 2012. For white, black, and Asian workers, earnings for 
the foreign born and the native born were similar within each group.

The earnings of both foreign-born and native-born workers increase with 
education. In 2012, foreign-born workers age 25 and over with less than 
a high school education earned $428 per week, while those with a bachelor's 
degree and higher earned about 2.7 times as much--$1,164 per week. Among 
the native born, those with a bachelor's degree and higher earned about 
2.3 times as much as those with less than a high school education--$1,165 
versus $510 per week.

Native-born workers earn more than the foreign born at most educational 
attainment levels. The gap between the earnings of foreign-born and native-
born workers closes at higher levels of education. For example, among high 
school graduates in 2012, full-time workers who were foreign born earned 
81.5 percent as much as their native-born counterparts. Among those with 
a bachelor's degree and higher, the earnings of foreign-born workers were 
essentially the same as the earnings of native-born workers.



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Last Modified Date: May 22, 2013