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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. (EDT) Thursday, May 16, 2019 	                      USDL-19-0812

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 -- 2018


The unemployment rate for foreign-born persons in the United States was 3.5 percent
in 2018, down from 4.1 percent in 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported
today. The jobless rate of native-born persons was 4.0 percent in 2018, down from
4.4 percent in 2017.

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. The survey
does not separately identify persons in these categories, however. For further
information about the survey, see the Technical Note in this news release.

Highlights from the 2018 data:

   --In 2018, there were 28.2 million foreign-born persons in the U.S.
     labor force, comprising 17.4 percent of the total. (See table 1.)

   --Hispanics accounted for nearly half of the foreign-born labor force
     in 2018, 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 were more likely to participate in the labor force
     than native-born men (77.9 percent versus 67.3 percent), while foreign-
     born women were less likely to participate than native-born women (54.3
     percent versus 57.6 percent). (See table 1.)

   --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 $758 in 2018, compared with $910 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 2018, 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 (73.2 percent) was higher than for the native-born labor force
(62.0 percent). Labor force participation is typically highest among persons in
that age bracket. (See table 1.)

In 2018, nearly half (47.7 percent) of the foreign-born labor force was Hispanic,
and one-quarter (25.1 percent) was Asian. Hispanics and Asians made up much
lower percentages of the native-born labor force, at 11.1 percent and 2.1
percent, respectively. About 16.6 percent of the foreign-born labor force was
White and 9.5 percent was Black, compared with 71.7 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 21.2 percent in
2018, much higher than the figure for the native-born labor force, at 4.1 percent.
The foreign born were less likely than the native born to have some college or
an associate degree--16.8 percent versus 28.9 percent. The proportions for foreign-
born and native-born high school graduates (25.1 percent versus 25.6 percent) and
those with a bachelor's degree or higher (36.9 percent versus 41.4 percent) were
more similar.

Labor Force

In 2018, the share of the U.S. civilian labor force that was foreign born increased
to 17.4 percent from 17.1 percent in 2017. (See table 1.) The share of the U.S.
civilian labor force that was foreign born was 13.3 percent in 2000.

In 2018, the labor force participation rate of the foreign born was 65.7 percent,
little changed from the prior year. The participation rate for the native born was
62.3 percent, about unchanged from 2017. Foreign-born men continued to participate
in the labor force at a considerably higher rate (77.9 percent) in 2018 than their
native-born counterparts (67.3 percent). In contrast, 54.3 percent of foreign-born
women were labor force participants, somewhat lower than the rate of 57.6 percent
for native-born women.

Labor force participation rates for the foreign-born varied across the major race
and ethnicity groups in 2018, ranging from 59.7 percent for foreign-born Whites to
70.8 percent for foreign-born Blacks. By contrast, participation rates for the native
born showed less variation across race and ethnicity groups, ranging from 60.9 percent
for native-born Blacks to 64.5 percent for native-born Hispanics. Across all race and
ethnicity groups, participation rates showed little or no change from 2017 to 2018
for both the foreign born and the native born. 

In 2018, foreign-born mothers with children under age 18 were less likely to be labor
force participants than were native-born mothers--61.0 percent versus 74.7 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 6, the participation rate for foreign-born mothers
was 50.8 percent, 18.6 percentage points below that for native-born mothers, at 69.4
percent. In comparison, the labor force participation rate of foreign-born mothers with
children ages 6 to 17 (68.4 percent) was 10.5 percentage points lower than that for 
native-born mothers with children ages 6 to 17 (78.9 percent). The labor force
participation rates of foreign-born and native-born fathers with children under age
18 were more similar, at 93.8 percent and 93.1 percent, respectively. (See table 2.)

By region, the foreign born made up a larger share of the labor force in the West
(24.4 percent) and in the Northeast (20.1 percent) in 2018 than for the nation as a
whole (17.4 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 the Midwest
(9.4 percent). (See table 6.) 

Unemployment

The unemployment rate of the foreign born declined from 4.1 percent to 3.5 percent
from 2017 to 2018, and the jobless rate for the native born fell from 4.4 percent
to 4.0 percent. The over-the-year decrease in the unemployment rates of the foreign
born and the native born reflected decreases in the rates for both men and women.
The unemployment rates for foreign-born men and women were 3.0 percent and 4.1 percent,
respectively, and the jobless rates for native-born men and women were 4.2 percent
and 3.8 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 in 2018
(4.6 percent). The unemployment rate was 3.8 percent for Hispanics, 3.4 percent for
Whites, and 2.6 percent for Asians. Among the native born, Blacks also had the highest
jobless rate (6.8 percent), followed by Hispanics (5.5 percent), Asians (3.8 percent),
and Whites (3.2 percent).

Occupation

In 2018, foreign-born workers continued to be more likely than native-born workers
to be employed in service occupations (23.3 percent versus 15.9 percent); natural
resources, construction, and maintenance occupations (14.0 percent versus 8.3 percent);
and production, transportation, and material moving occupations (15.0 percent versus
11.3 percent). (See table 4.)

As in past years, native-born workers were more likely than foreign-born workers to
be employed in management, professional, and related occupations (41.6 percent versus
32.7 percent) and sales and office occupations (22.9 percent versus 14.9 percent).

In 2018, 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--22.8 percent of the foreign born versus 15.1
percent of the native born. The disparity for women was most pronounced in service
occupations--32.5 percent of the foreign born worked in that occupation group, compared
with 19.0 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 2018, median usual weekly earnings of foreign-born, full-time wage and salary workers
($758) were 83.3 percent of the earnings of their native-born counterparts ($910).
Among men, median weekly earnings for the foreign born ($815) were 80.9 percent of
the earnings of the native born ($1,007). Median earnings for foreign-born women ($678)
were 83.7 percent of the earnings of native-born women ($810). (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 83.8 percent as much as their native-born counterparts in 2018.
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
2018, foreign-born workers age 25 and over with less than a high school diploma earned
$535 per week, while those with a bachelor's degree and higher earned about 2.5 times
as much--$1,362 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--
$1,309 versus $578 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 83.8 percent as much as their native-born counterparts in 2018. Among those
with a bachelor's degree and higher, the earnings of foreign-born workers ($1,362)
were slightly higher than the earnings of native-born workers ($1,309).



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Last Modified Date: May 16, 2019