Employment Situation in the Fourth Quarter of 2015

CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES — The number and percentage of native-born Americans officially unemployed have improved. But the unemployment rate only includes those who have looked for a job in the last four weeks. The number of native-born Americans not in the labor force (not working or looking for work) did not improve at all in the last year. Moreover, there were still 1.3 million fewer working-age (16 to 65) natives holding a job in the fourth quarter of 2015 than in the same quarter of 2007. In contrast, over the same time period the number of immigrants working is up by 1.8 million.

  • The unemployment rate for natives in the fourth quarter of 2015 was 4.9 percent (6.4 million). Despite recent improvements, this is higher than the 4.6 percent rate in the fourth quarter of 2007 and the 3.6 percent rate in the fourth quarter of 2000.1
  • In addition to the unemployed, 28.2 percent (48.8 million) of working-age (16 to 65) natives were not in the labor force, which means they were not working or looking for work. This is much higher than the 25.3 percent rate (42.5 million) in the same quarter of 2007 and the 23.2 percent rate (36.3 million) in 2000.
  • Combining those not in the labor force and those unemployed shows 55.2 million working-age, native-born Americans without jobs in the fourth quarter of 2015, compared to 40.8 million in same quarter of 2000.2
  • There were also 10.7 million working-age immigrants unemployed or not in the labor force in the fourth quarter of 2015.3
  • In addition to those unemployed and not in the labor force, there were 5.9 million immigrants and natives working part-time, but looking for full-time work.
  • In total, there were 71.8 million natives and immigrants unemployed, not in the labor force (16 to 65), or forced to work part-time in the fourth quarter of 2015.4

The key policy question facing the country with regard to immigration is: Does it make sense to continue to admit a million new permanent immigrants each year, along with several hundred thousand guestworkers, given the enormous pool of working-age people not working?

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