Labor Force Characteristics of Foreign-born Workers Summary

For release 10:00 a.m. (EDT) Thursday, May 17, 2018                          USDL-18-0786

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 -- 2017


The unemployment rate for foreign-born persons in the United States was 4.1 percent in
2017, down from 4.3 percent in 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
The jobless rate of native-born persons was 4.4 percent in 2017, down from 5.0 percent
in 2016.

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 in this news release.

Highlights from the 2017 data:

   --In 2017, there were 27.4 million foreign-born persons in the U.S. labor force,
     comprising 17.1 percent of the total. (See table 1.)

   --Hispanics accounted for 47.9 percent of the foreign-born labor force in 2017,
     and Asians accounted for 25.2 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 and less likely to be employed in management, professional,
     and related occupations. (See table 4.)

   --The median usual weekly earnings of foreign-born full-time wage and salary
     workers were $730 in 2017, compared with $885 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 composition of the foreign-born labor force differs from that of the
native-born labor force. In 2017, men accounted for 57.5 percent of the foreign-born
labor force, compared with 52.2 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 (73.1 percent)
was higher than for the native-born labor force (62.2 percent). Labor force participation
is typically highest among persons in that age bracket. (See table 1.)

In 2017, nearly half (47.9 percent) of the foreign-born labor force was Hispanic, and
one-quarter (25.2 percent) was Asian. Hispanics and Asians made up much lower percentages
of the native-born labor force, at 10.7 percent and 2.0 percent, respectively. About 16.5
percent of the foreign-born labor force was White and 9.4 percent was Black, compared
with 72.3 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively, of the native-born labor force.

In terms of educational attainment, the proportion of the foreign-born labor force age 25
and over that had not completed high school was 21.8 percent in 2017, much higher than
the figure for the native-born labor force, at 4.2 percent. The foreign born were less
likely than the native born to have some college or an associate degree--16.8 percent
versus 29.4 percent. The proportions for foreign-born and native-born high school
graduates (25.2 percent versus 25.9 percent) and those with a bachelor's degree or higher
(36.2 percent versus 40.5 percent) were more similar.

Labor Force

In 2017, the share of the U.S. civilian labor force that was foreign born increased to
17.1 percent from 16.9 percent in 2016. (See table 1.) The share of the U.S. civilian
labor force that was foreign born was 13.3 percent in 2000.

In 2017, the labor force participation rate of the foreign born was 66.0 percent, up from
65.2 percent in the prior year. The participation rate for the native born was 62.2
percent, little changed from 2016. Foreign-born men were considerably more likely to be
labor force participants (78.1 percent) in 2017 than their native-born counterparts (67.3
percent). In contrast, 54.5 percent of foreign-born women were labor force participants,
somewhat lower than the rate of 57.5 percent for native-born women.

Among the major race and ethnicity groups, labor force participation rates increased for
foreign-born Blacks (71.5 percent) and Asians (64.3 percent) in 2017, while the rates for
Whites (59.9 percent) and Hispanics (68.3 percent) were little different from the prior
year. Among the native born, the participation rate for Blacks rose to 60.7 percent and
the rate for Whites declined to 62.2 percent. The participation rates for Asians (62.0
percent) and Hispanics (64.2 percent) showed little change from 2016 to 2017.

In 2017, foreign-born mothers with children under 18 years old were less likely to be
labor force participants than were native-born mothers--60.1 percent versus 74.4 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
49.8 percent in 2017, much lower than that for native-born mothers with children under
age 6, at 69.4 percent. Among women with children under age 3, the participation rate for
foreign-born mothers (44.4 percent) was 22.5 percentage points below that for native-born
mothers (66.9 percent). The labor force participation rates of foreign-born and native-
born fathers with children under age 18 were more similar, at 93.1 percent and 92.7
percent, respectively. (See table 2.)

By region, the foreign born made up a larger share of the labor force in the West (24.1
percent) and in the Northeast (19.6 percent) in 2017 than for the nation as a whole (17.1
percent). In contrast, the foreign born made up a smaller share of the labor force than
for the nation as a whole in the South (16.2 percent) and Midwest (8.8 percent). (See
table 6.)

Unemployment

The unemployment rate of the foreign born declined from 4.3 percent to 4.1 percent from
2016 to 2017, and the jobless rate for the native born fell from 5.0 percent to 4.4
percent. The unemployment rate for foreign-born women declined from 5.1 percent to 4.8
percent, and the rate for foreign-born men was little changed at 3.6 percent. The over-
the-year decrease in the unemployment rate of the native born reflected decreases in the
rates for both men and women. The rate for men fell from 5.2 percent to 4.6 percent,
while the rate for women declined from 4.7 percent to 4.2 percent. (See table 1.)

For both the foreign born and the native born, jobless rates vary considerably by race
and ethnicity.  Among the foreign born, Blacks had the highest unemployment rate (5.6
percent) in 2017. The unemployment rates were 4.3 percent for Hispanics, 4.0 percent for
Whites, and 3.2 percent for Asians. Among the native born, Blacks also had the highest
jobless rate (7.8 percent), followed by Hispanics (5.9 percent), Asians (3.8 percent),
and Whites (3.5 percent).

Occupation

In 2017, foreign-born workers were more likely than native-born workers to be employed
in service occupations (23.9 percent versus 16.1 percent); in production, transportation,
and material moving occupations (14.9 percent versus 11.0 percent); and in natural
resources, construction, and maintenance occupations (13.9 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 (41.3 percent versus 32.3 percent)
and in sales and office occupations (23.3 percent versus 15.0 percent).

In 2017, employed foreign-born men and women were more likely than their native-born
counterparts to work in service occupations; natural resources, construction, and
maintenance occupations; and production, transportation, and material moving
occupations. Among men, the employment disparity was especially great in natural
resources, construction, and maintenance occupations--22.6 percent of foreign-born
men versus 15.2 percent of native-born men. The disparity for women was most pronounced
in service occupations--33.1 percent of foreign-born women worked in that occupation
group, compared with 18.8 percent of native-born women. By contrast, employed foreign-
born men and women were less likely than their native-born counterparts to work in
management, professional, and related occupations and in sales and office occupations.

Earnings

In 2017, the median usual weekly earnings of foreign-born, full-time wage and salary
workers ($730) were 82.5 percent of the earnings of their native-born counterparts
($885). Among men, median weekly earnings for the foreign-born ($776) were 79.3 percent
of the earnings of their native-born counterparts ($978). Median earnings for foreign-
born women ($660) were 83.8 percent of the earnings of their native-born counterparts
($788). 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 82.3 percent as much as their native-born counterparts in 2017.
For Black workers, earnings for the foreign born and the native born were almost the
same. White and Asian foreign-born workers earned more than their native-born
counterparts.

The earnings of both foreign-born and native-born workers increase with education. In
2017, foreign-born workers age 25 and over with less than a high school diploma on earned $506
per week, while those with a bachelor's degree and higher earned about 2.6 times as
much--$1,340 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 diploma--$1,271 versus
$560 per week.

Native-born workers earn more than the foreign born at most educational attainment
levels. However, there is a relatively small gap between the earnings of foreign-born
and native-born workers for those with a bachelor's degree and higher. For example,
among high school graduates (no college), full-time workers who were foreign born
earned 84.3 percent as much as their native-born counterparts in 2017. Among those with
a bachelor's degree and higher, the earnings of foreign-born workers ($1,340) were not
much different from the earnings of native-born workers ($1,271).



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Last Modified Date: May 17, 2018