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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) Tuesday, May 18, 2021 			     USDL-21-0905

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


		FOREIGN-BORN WORKERS: LABOR FORCE CHARACTERISTICS -- 2020


The unemployment rate for foreign-born persons in the United States was 9.2 percent in
2020, up sharply from 3.1 percent in 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported
today. The jobless rate of native-born persons also increased sharply; it was 7.8 
percent in 2020, up from 3.8 percent in 2019. The marked increases in these measures
reflect the effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

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 2020 data:

   --In 2020, the share of the U.S. civilian labor force that is foreign born was 17.0
     percent, down from 17.4 percent in 2019. From 2019 to 2020, the overall labor 
     force declined by 2.8 million; the foreign born accounted for 1.1 million of this
     decline, or 38.4 percent. (See table 1.)

   --From 2019 to 2020, employment fell by 2.7 million among the foreign born, a 
     decline of 9.8 percent. Employment also fell among the native born (-7.1 million);
     however, in relative terms, the decline was about half as large, at 5.4 percent.
     (See table 1.)

   --Hispanics continued to account for nearly half of the foreign-born labor force in
     2020, 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 2020 (76.6 percent) than their native-born counterparts (65.9 
     percent). In contrast, 53.2 percent of foreign-born women were labor force 
     participants, lower than the participation rate of 56.8 percent for native-born
     women. (See table 1.)

   --In 2020, 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 $885 in 2020, compared with $1,000 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. In addition,
     earnings data for 2020 reflect the effect of steep pandemic-related job losses.) 

Demographic Characteristics

The demographic composition of the foreign-born labor force differs from that of the 
native-born labor force. In 2020, men accounted for 57.3 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 (71.8 
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 2020, nearly half (47.5 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 12.0 percent and 2.4 percent, 
respectively. About 16.2 percent of the foreign-born labor force was White and 10.1 
percent was Black, compared with 70.7 percent and 12.1 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 19.0 percent in 2020, 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--16.2 percent versus 28.1 percent. The proportions of foreign-born and native-
born high school graduates (24.5 percent versus 24.8 percent) and those with a 
bachelor's degree or higher (40.3 percent versus 43.6 percent) were more similar.

Labor Force

In 2020, the share of the U.S. civilian labor force that is foreign born declined by
0.4 percentage point to 17.0 percent, the largest decline since comparable data 
became available in 1996. The economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic
disproportionately affected the foreign-born labor force. In 2020, the overall labor
force declined by 2.8 million; the foreign born accounted for 1.1 million of this 
decline, or 38.4 percent. (See table 1.)

In 2020, the labor force participation rate of the foreign born declined by 1.5 
percentage points to 64.5 percent. The rate for foreign-born men declined by 1.4 
percentage points to 76.6 percent, while that for foreign-born women fell by 1.6 
percentage points to 53.2 percent. The labor force participation rate of the native 
born also declined over the year, falling by 1.3 percentage points to 61.2 percent.
The rate for native-born men declined by 1.5 percentage points to 65.9 percent, and
that for native-born women was down by 1.1 percentage points to 56.8 percent.

Labor force participation rates for the foreign born varied across the major race 
and ethnicity groups in 2020, ranging from 59.9 percent for foreign-born Whites to 
69.3 percent for foreign-born Blacks. Participation rates for the native born showed
less variation across major race and ethnicity groups, ranging from 58.9 percent for
native-born Blacks to 65.0 percent for native-born Hispanics.

Across the major race and ethnicity groups, participation rates declined from 2019 
to 2020 for foreign-born Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics, and the rate for Whites was
little changed. Among the native born, the participation rates of Whites and Blacks
declined, while those of Asians and Hispanics changed little. 

In 2020, foreign-born mothers with children under age 18 were less likely to be 
labor force participants than native-born mothers--59.8 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 51.6 percent, 18.2 percentage points below that for native-born mothers,
at 69.8 percent. In comparison, the labor force participation rate of foreign-born 
mothers with children ages 6 to 17 (65.4 percent) was 13.1 percentage points lower 
than that for native-born mothers with children ages 6 to 17 (78.5 percent). The 
labor force participation rates of foreign-born and native-born fathers with children
under age 18 were more similar, at 92.9 percent and 92.1 percent, respectively. 
(See table 2.)

By region, the foreign born made up a larger share of the labor force in the West 
(22.4 percent) and in the Northeast (20.7 percent) in 2020 than for the nation as a 
whole (17.0 percent). The foreign born made up a smaller share of the labor force than
for the nation as a whole in the South (16.3 percent) and the Midwest (9.2 percent).
(See table 6.) 

Employment

Employment fell by 2.7 million among the foreign born from 2019 to 2020, a decline of 
9.8 percent. While employment also fell among the native born over the period (-7.1 
million), in relative terms, the decline was about half as large, at 5.4 percent. 
(See table 1.) 

Unemployment

The unemployment rate of the foreign born rose from 3.1 percent to 9.2 percent from 
2019 to 2020, and the jobless rate for the native born increased from 3.8 percent to 
7.8 percent. The over-the-year increase in the unemployment rates of the foreign born 
and the native born reflected increases in the rates for both men and women. In 2020,
the unemployment rates for foreign-born men and women increased by 5.3 percentage 
points and 7.1 percentage points to 8.0 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively. The 
unemployment rates for native-born men and women increased by 3.8 percentage points 
and 4.3 percentage points to 7.8 percent and 7.9 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 
2020 (10.7 percent), followed by Hispanics (9.7 percent), Asians (8.7 percent), and
Whites (7.5 percent). Among the native born, jobless rates were higher for Blacks 
(11.5 percent) and Hispanics (11.0 percent) than for Asians (8.4 percent) and Whites
(6.5 percent).

Occupation

In 2020, foreign-born workers continued to be more likely than native-born workers to
be employed in service occupations (20.6 percent versus 14.4 percent); natural 
resources, construction, and maintenance occupations (13.6 percent versus 8.1 percent);
and production, transportation, and material moving occupations (15.2 percent versus
11.7 percent). Foreign-born workers were less likely than native-born workers to be
employed in management, professional, and related occupations (36.3 percent versus 
44.4 percent) and in sales and office occupations (14.3 percent versus 21.3 percent).
(See table 4.)

Among employed men, the disparity was especially great in natural resources, 
construction, and maintenance occupations--22.0 percent of the foreign born worked in
this occupational field in 2020, versus 14.7 percent of the native born. The 
occupational disparity for women was pronounced in service occupations--28.6 percent 
of the foreign born worked in that occupation group, compared with 17.1 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 2020, median usual weekly earnings of foreign-born full-time wage and salary workers
($885) were 88.5 percent of the earnings of their native-born counterparts ($1,000). 
Among men, median weekly earnings for the foreign born ($941) were 84.4 percent of the 
earnings of the native born ($1,115). Median earnings for foreign-born women ($798) were
88.4 percent of the earnings of native-born women ($903). (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. In addition, earnings data for 2020 reflect the effect of steep
pandemic-related job losses, which disproportionately affected lower-paid workers. 

Among the major race and ethnicity groups, Hispanic foreign-born full-time wage and 
salary workers earned 86.7 percent as much as their native-born counterparts in 2020.
For Black and Asian workers, earnings for the foreign born were slightly higher than 
for their native-born counterparts (about a 5-percent difference for both groups), 
while White foreign-born workers earned 14.4 percent more than their native-born 
counterparts. 

The earnings of both foreign-born and native-born workers increase with education. In
2020, foreign-born workers age 25 and over with less than a high school diploma earned
$601 per week, while those with a bachelor's degree and higher earned about 2.5 times 
as much--$1,492 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--$1,409
per week versus $655 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 ($702) earned 87.6 percent as much as their native-born counterparts
($801) in 2020. However, among those with a bachelor's degree and higher, the earnings
of foreign-born workers ($1,492) were slightly higher than the earnings of native-born
workers ($1,409).



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Last Modified Date: May 18, 2021