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Foreign-born workers made up 17.4 percent of labor force in 2019

May 29, 2020

In 2019, there were 28.4 million foreign-born people in the U.S. labor force, comprising 17.4 percent of the total.

The Pacific states had the highest share of foreign born in their labor force in 2019 (27.8 percent), followed by the Middle Atlantic states (21.4 percent). Foreign born workers represented 5.5 percent of the labor force in the East South Central states.

Percent of labor force that is foreign born, by census region and division, 2019 annual averages
Census region and division Percent

Northeast

20.2

New England

17.0

Middle Atlantic

21.4

South

16.5

South Atlantic

18.6

East South Central

5.5

West South Central

18.2

Midwest

9.7

East North Central

10.5

West North Central

8.1

West

23.5

Mountain

14.3

Pacific

27.8

In 2019, foreign-born workers continued to be more likely than native-born workers to be employed in service occupations (22.5 percent compared with 16.0 percent); natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations (13.4 percent compared with 8.2 percent); and production, transportation, and material moving occupations (14.7 percent compared with 11.2 percent). Foreign-born workers were less likely than native-born workers to be employed in management, professional, and related occupations (33.9 percent compared with 42.2 percent) and in sales and office occupations (15.5 percent compared with 22.4 percent).

Percent distribution of foreign-born and native-born workers by occupation, 2019 annual averages
Occupation Foreign born Native born

Total employed, all occupations

100 100

Management, professional, and related

33.9 42.2

Service

22.5 16

Sales and office

15.5 22.4

Natural resources, construction, and maintenance

13.4 8.2

Production, transportation, and material moving

14.7 11.2

The states (including the District of Columbia) that compose the census divisions are:
New England
: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont
Middle Atlantic
: New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania
South Atlantic: Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia
East South Central: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee
West South Central
: Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas
East North Central
: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin
West North Central
: Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota
Mountain: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming
Pacific
: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington.

These data are from the Current Population Survey. For more information, see "Foreign-Born Workers: Labor Force Characteristics — 2019." The foreign born are U.S. residents 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 native born are people born in the United States or one of its outlying areas such as Puerto Rico or Guam or who were born abroad of at least one parent who was a U.S. citizen.

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Foreign-born workers made up 17.4 percent of labor force in 2019 on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2020/foreign-born-workers-made-up-17-point-4-percent-of-labor-force-in-2019.htm (visited August 10, 2020).

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