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Economic News Release
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Labor Force Characteristics of Foreign-born Workers Summary

For release 10:00 a.m. (ET) Wednesday, May 18, 2022		                  USDL-22-0902

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 -- 2021


The unemployment rate for foreign-born persons in the United States was 5.6 percent in 2021,
down sharply from 9.2 percent in 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. 
The jobless rate of native-born persons also declined sharply; it was 5.3 percent in 2021,
down from 7.8 percent in 2020. Both measures are down considerably from their highs in 2020,
however, they remain above their levels prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2019. 

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 not U.S. citizens at birth. Specifically, they were born 
outside the United States (or one of its outlying areas such as Puerto Rico or Guam), and 
neither parent was a U.S. citizen. The foreign born include legally-admitted immigrants, 
refugees, temporary residents such as students and temporary workers, and undocumented 
immigrants. However, the survey does not separately identify persons in these categories.
For further information about the survey, see the Technical Note in this news release.

Highlights from the 2021 data:

 --In 2021, the share of the U.S. civilian labor force that is foreign born returned to
   its pre-pandemic level of 17.4 percent in 2019, up from 17.0 percent in 2020. From
   2020 to 2021, the foreign-born labor force increased by 671,000 while that of the
   native-born labor force was essentially unchanged. (See table 1.)

 --From 2020 to 2021, overall employment increased by 4.8 million. Among the foreign born,
   employment increased by 1.6 million, an increase of 6.5 percent. Employment also
   increased among the native born (+3.2 million); however, in relative terms, the increase
   was about less than half as large, at 2.6 percent. (See table 1.)
 
 --Hispanics continued to account for nearly half of the foreign-born labor force in 2021,
   and Asians accounted for one-quarter. (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 men continued to participate in the labor force at a considerably higher
   rate in 2021 (76.8 percent) than their native-born counterparts (65.8 percent). By 
   contrast, 53.4 percent of foreign-born women were labor force participants, lower than
   the participation rate of 56.6 percent for native-born women. (See table 1.)

 --In 2021, foreign-born workers were more likely than native-born workers to be employed
   in service occupations; natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations;
   and production, transportation, and material moving occupations. Foreign-born workers
   were less likely than native-born workers to be employed in management, professional,
   and related occupations and in sales and office occupations. (See table 4.)

 --The median usual weekly earnings of foreign-born full-time wage and salary workers were
   $898 in 2021, compared with $1,017 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 2021, men accounted for 57.4 percent of the foreign-born labor
force, compared with 52.1 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 (71.4 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 2021, nearly half (47.6 percent) of the foreign-born labor force was Hispanic, and 
one-quarter (25.0 percent) was Asian. Hispanics and Asians made up much lower percentages
of the native-born labor force, at 12.1 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively. About 16.2
percent of the foreign-born labor force was White and 9.9 percent was Black, compared with
70.2 percent and 12.3 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 19.1 percent in 2021, much higher than the
figure for the native-born labor force, at 3.5 percent. The foreign born were less likely
than the native born to have some college or an associate degree--15.5 percent versus 27.7
percent. The proportions of foreign-born and native-born high school graduates (24.8 percent
versus 24.9 percent) and those with a bachelor's degree or higher (40.5 percent versus 
43.9 percent) were more similar.

Labor Force

In 2021, the share of the U.S. civilian labor force that is foreign born returned to its
pre-pandemic level of 17.4 percent in 2019, up from 17.0 percent in 2020. From 2020 to 2021,
the foreign-born labor force increased by 671,000, while that of the native-born labor force
was essentially unchanged. (See table 1.) 

In 2021, the labor force participation rate of the foreign born changed little at 64.7 
percent. The rates for foreign-born men and women also were little changed at 76.8 percent
and 53.4 percent, respectively. The labor force participation rate of the native born was 
little changed at 61.0 percent. The rates for native-born men and women were also little 
changed at 65.8 percent and 56.6 percent, respectively.

Labor force participation rates for the foreign born varied across the major race and 
ethnicity groups in 2021, ranging from 60.2 percent for foreign-born Whites to 69.4 percent
for foreign-born Blacks. Participation rates for the native born showed less variation across
major race and ethnicity groups, ranging from 59.4 percent for native-born Blacks to 65.2
percent for native-born Hispanics.

Among the major race and ethnicity groups, the labor force participation rate of foreign-born
Asians increased by 1.7 percentage points to 64.1 percent from 2020 to 2021. The rates for 
foreign-born Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics were little changed over the year. Among the 
native born, the participation rate of Whites declined by 0.3 percentage point to 60.6 
percent, while native born Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics changed little from 2020 to 2021.

In 2021, foreign-born mothers with children under age 18 were less likely to be labor 
force participants than native-born mothers--60.1 percent versus 74.6 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. Among
women with children under age 3, the participation rate for foreign-born mothers was 
48.4 percent, 18.4 percentage points below that for native-born mothers, at 66.8 percent.
By comparison, the labor force participation rate of foreign-born mothers with children
ages 6 to 17 (65.9 percent) was 12.7 percentage points lower than that for native-born
mothers with children ages 6 to 17 (78.6 percent). The labor force participation rates
of foreign-born and native-born fathers with children under age 18 were more similar,
at 93.4 percent and 92.2 percent, respectively. (See table 2.)

By region, the foreign born made up a larger share of the labor force in the West (22.5
percent) and in the Northeast (20.5 percent) in 2021 than for the nation as a whole 
(17.4 percent). The foreign born made up a smaller share of the labor force than for the
nation as a whole in the South (16.9 percent) and the Midwest (9.7 percent). (See table 6.) 

Employment

From 2020 to 2021, overall employment grew by 4.8 million. Among the foreign born, 
employment increased by 1.6 million, or 6.5 percent. Employment also rose among the 
native born (+3.2 million); however, in relative terms, the increase was about less
than half as large, at 2.6 percent. (See table 1.) 

Unemployment

The unemployment rate of the foreign born declined from 9.2 percent to 5.6 percent 
from 2020 to 2021, and the jobless rate for the native born decreased from 7.8 percent
to 5.3 percent. However, the jobless rates for foreign born and native born remain 
higher than their 2019 levels (3.1 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively), prior to 
the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The over-the-year decline in the unemployment 
rates of the foreign born and the native born reflected declines in the rates for both
men and women. In 2021, the unemployment rates for foreign-born men and women fell by
2.9 percentage points and 4.7 percentage points to 5.1 percent and 6.1 percent, 
respectively. The unemployment rates for native-born men and women fell by 2.3 
percentage points and 2.9 percentage points to 5.5 percent and 5.0 percent, respectively.
(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 in 2021
(7.1 percent), followed by Hispanics (5.7 percent), Whites (5.2 percent), and Asians
(4.9 percent). Among the native born, jobless rates were higher for Blacks (8.9 percent)
and Hispanics (7.6 percent) than for Asians (5.2 percent) and Whites (4.2 percent).

Occupation

In 2021, foreign-born workers continued to be more likely than native-born workers to
be employed in service occupations (21.2 percent versus 14.9 percent); natural resources,
construction, and maintenance occupations (14.2 percent versus 8.1 percent); and 
production, transportation, and material moving occupations (15.3 percent versus 12.1
percent). Foreign-born workers were less likely than native-born workers to be employed
in management, professional, and related occupations (35.2 percent versus 43.9 percent)
and in sales and office occupations (14.2 percent versus 20.9 percent). (See table 4.)

Among employed men, the disparity was especially great in natural resources, construction,
and maintenance occupations--23.1 percent of the foreign born worked in this occupational
field in 2021, versus 14.7 percent of the native born. The occupational disparity for
women was pronounced in service occupations--30.0 percent of the foreign born worked in 
that occupation group, compared with 17.7 percent of the native born. By contrast,
employed native-born men and women were more likely than their foreign-born counterparts
to work in management, professional, and related occupations and in sales and office 
occupations.

Earnings

In 2021, median usual weekly earnings of foreign-born full-time wage and salary workers
($898) were 88.3 percent of the earnings of their native-born counterparts ($1,017). Among
men, median weekly earnings for the foreign born ($957) were 84.6 percent of the earnings
of the native born ($1,131). Median earnings for foreign-born women ($804) were 86.7 
percent of the earnings of native-born women ($927). (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. 

Among the major race and ethnicity groups, Hispanic foreign-born full-time wage and salary
workers earned 84.3 percent as much as their native-born counterparts in 2021. For Black
and Asian workers, earnings for the foreign born were slightly higher than for their 
native-born counterparts (about an 8-percent difference for both groups), while White 
foreign-born workers earned 15.4 percent more than their native-born counterparts. 

The earnings of both foreign-born and native-born workers increase with education. In
2021, foreign-born workers age 25 and over with less than a high school diploma earned 
$610 per week, while those with a bachelor's degree and higher earned about 2.5 times as
much--$1,521 per week. Among the native born, those with a bachelor's degree and higher 
earned 2.2 times as much as those with less than a high school diploma--$1,440 per week
versus $669 per week.

Native-born workers earn more than the foreign born at most educational attainment levels.
For example, among high school graduates (no college), full-time workers who were foreign 
born ($735) earned 89.0 percent as much as their native-born counterparts ($826) in 2021.
However, among those with a bachelor's degree and higher, the earnings of foreign-born 
workers ($1,521) were slightly higher than the earnings of native-born workers ($1,440).



Last Modified Date: May 18, 2022