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Foreign-born: higher labor force participation and lower unemployment

June 18, 2018

Foreign-born residents have higher labor force participation rates and lower unemployment rates than US-born workers

The 27.4 million foreign-born workers in the 160-million strong US labor force in 2017 were 17.1 percent of US workers. About 48 percent of foreign-born workers were Hispanic and 25 percent were Asians. Hispanics were 11 percent and Asians two percent of US-born workers

The unemployment rate of foreign-born workers in 2017 averaged 4.1 percent, versus 4.4 percent for the US-born; the unemployment rate of foreign-born men was even lower at 3.6 percent. For all racial and ethnic groups, foreign-born workers had lower unemployment rates than similar US-born workers. For example, an average 4.3 percent of foreign-born Hispanics were jobless in 2017, versus 5.9 percent of US-born Hispanics

Foreign-born workers are mostly male, 58 percent versus 52 percent of US-born workers, and more likely to be in the 25-54 age group, 73 versus 62 percent. Foreign-born men have higher labor force participation rates than US-born men, 78 percent versus 63 percent, while foreign-born women have a lower participation rate, 54 versus 58 percent for US-born women

The gap in labor force participation was especially large for foreign-born women with children under 18: only 60 percent of such women were in the labor force, versus 74 percent of US-born women with children under 18. For women with children under three, the gap was even larger, 44 percent of foreign-born women and 67 percent of US-born women with small children were in the labor force

Almost 22 percent of foreign-born workers did not complete high school, compared with four percent of US born workers. About 36 percent of foreign-born workers, and 40 percent of US-born workers, had college degrees. Foreign-born Hispanics with less than a high school education were much more likely to be in the labor force than similar US-born Hispanics: 63 percent of foreign-born Hispanics without high school diplomas, versus 46 percent of US-born Hispanics, were in the labor force in 2017

The foreign-born are concentrated in particular occupations, including agriculture, construction and services. Some 2.1 percent of foreign-born men, versus 0.6 percent of US-born men, were in farming occupations, a 3.5 times greater concentration. Similarly, 15.6 percent of foreign-born men, versus 8.2 percent of US-born men, were in construction occupations, 1.9 ratio. Among women, 10.3 percent of foreign-born women, versus 2.1 percent of US-born women, were in cleaning and maintenance occupations, a 4.9 times greater concentration

The median earnings of foreign-born workers were 20 percent lower than for US-born workers, $730 a week versus $885. The gap in earnings was larger for foreign-born men than for foreign-born women, who earned 84 percent as much as US-born women. Similarly, the earnings gap was larger for older workers: foreign-born workers 55 and older earned 76 percent as much as similar US-born workers, while those 25-34 earned 89 percent as much as similar US-born workers

The gap between the earnings of foreign-born and US-born reverses as education rises. For example, foreign-born workers with less than a high-school education earned an average $506 a week in 2017, versus $560 a week for similar US-born workers. The foreign-born with college degrees averaged $1,340 a week, compared with $1,271 for similar US-born

Source: Labor Force Characteristics of Foreign-born Workers Summary

Employment Status of Foreign- and US-born Workers, 2016-17

Employment status of the foreign-born and native-born populations by selected characteristics, 2016-2017 annual averages [Numbers in thousands]
Characteristic 2016 2017
Civilian noninstitutional population Civilian labor force Civilian noninstitutional population Civilian labor force
Total Participation rate Employed Unemployed Total Participation rate Employed Unemployed
Number Unemployment rate Number Unemployment rate
TOTAL  
Total, 16 years and over 253,538 159,187 62.8 151,436 7,751 4.9 255,079 160,320 62.9 153,337 6,982 4.4
Men 122,497 84,755 69.2 80,568 4,187 4.9 123,275 85,145 69.1 81,402 3,743 4.4
Women 131,040 74,432 56.8 70,868 3,564 4.8 131,804 75,175 57.0 71,936 3,239 4.3
 
FOREIGN BORN  
Total, 16 years and over 41,321 26,951 65.2 25,779 1,172 4.3 41,500 27,373 66.0 26,254 1,119 4.1
Men 20,057 15,595 77.8 15,007 588 3.8 20,135 15,735 78.1 15,171 564 3.6
Women 21,264 11,356 53.4 10,772 584 5.1 21,365 11,638 54.5 11,083 555 4.8
Age
16 to 24 years 3,702 1,886 50.9 1,726 160 8.5 3,547 1,886 53.2 1,727 159 8.4
25 to 34 years 7,785 5,836 75.0 5,589 247 4.2 7,820 5,898 75.4 5,656 242 4.1
35 to 44 years 9,218 7,259 78.8 6,990 269 3.7 9,189 7,299 79.4 7,043 256 3.5
45 to 54 years 8,369 6,690 79.9 6,430 259 3.9 8,481 6,826 80.5 6,592 234 3.4
55 to 64 years 6,019 4,044 67.2 3,863 180 4.5 6,146 4,209 68.5 4,040 169 4.0
65 years and over 6,228 1,235 19.8 1,180 55 4.5 6,317 1,256 19.9 1,196 60 4.8
Race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity1  
White non-Hispanic or Latino 7,415 4,375 59.0 4,213 162 3.7 7,524 4,503 59.9 4,324 179 4.0
Black non-Hispanic or Latino 3,576 2,508 70.1 2,356 152 6.1 3,599 2,575 71.5 2,430 145 5.6
Asian non-Hispanic or Latino 10,697 6,747 63.1 6,516 231 3.4 10,738 6,903 64.3 6,684 220 3.2
Hispanic or Latino ethnicity 19,175 13,014 67.9 12,404 610 4.7 19,174 13,098 68.3 12,540 558 4.3
Educational attainment  
Total, 25 years and over 37,619 25,064 66.6 24,053 1,011 4.0 37,953 25,488 67.2 24,527 961 3.8
Less than a high school diploma 9,696 5,625 58.0 5,333 291 5.2 9,510 5,566 58.5 5,309 257 4.6
High school graduates, no college2 9,509 6,187 65.1 5,911 276 4.5 9,697 6,412 66.1 6,160 252 3.9
Some college or associate degree 6,109 4,259 69.7 4,090 169 4.0 6,070 4,273 70.4 4,116 156 3.7
Bachelor's degree and higher3 12,305 8,994 73.1 8,718 275 3.1 12,677 9,237 72.9 8,942 294 3.2
 
NATIVE BORN  
Total, 16 years and over 212,217 132,236 62.3 125,657 6,580 5.0 213,579 132,946 62.2 127,083 5,863 4.4
Men 102,441 69,160 67.5 65,561 3,599 5.2 103,140 69,410 67.3 66,231 3,179 4.6
Women 109,776 63,076 57.5 60,096 2,981 4.7 110,439 63,536 57.5 60,852 2,684 4.2
Age
16 to 24 years 34,733 19,316 55.6 17,266 2,050 10.6 34,603 19,275 55.7 17,479 1,796 9.3
25 to 34 years 35,762 29,683 83.0 28,133 1,550 5.2 36,138 30,187 83.5 28,782 1,405 4.7
35 to 44 years 30,599 25,560 83.5 24,572 988 3.9 30,763 25,735 83.7 24,849 886 3.4
45 to 54 years 34,028 27,219 80.0 26,289 929 3.4 33,306 26,737 80.3 25,911 827 3.1
55 to 64 years 35,289 22,422 63.5 21,661 761 3.4 35,544 22,690 63.8 22,024 666 2.9
65 years and over 41,807 8,036 19.2 7,736 300 3.7 43,225 8,321 19.3 8,038 283 3.4
Race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity1  
White non-Hispanic or Latino 154,543 96,503 62.4 92,671 3,832 4.0 154,598 96,148 62.2 92,779 3,369 3.5
Black non-Hispanic or Latino 26,538 15,947 60.1 14,536 1,411 8.8 26,764 16,239 60.7 14,965 1,274 7.8
Asian non-Hispanic or Latino 4,004 2,508 62.6 2,401 107 4.2 4,219 2,614 62.0 2,515 99 3.8
Hispanic or Latino ethnicity 21,522 13,783 64.0 12,845 938 6.8 22,197 14,242 64.2 13,398 843 5.9
Educational attainment  
Total, 25 years and over 177,484 112,920 63.6 108,391 4,529 4.0 178,976 113,672 63.5 109,604 4,067 3.6
Less than a high school diploma 13,672 5,054 37.0 4,551 504 10.0 13,128 4,776 36.4 4,359 417 8.7
High school graduates, no college2 52,513 29,461 56.1 27,890 1,571 5.3 52,496 29,462 56.1 28,050 1,412 4.8
Some college or associate degree 51,075 33,675 65.9 32,295 1,380 4.1 51,191 33,424 65.3 32,166 1,257 3.8
Bachelor's degree and higher3 60,224 44,729 74.3 43,655 1,074 2.4 62,161 46,009 74.0 45,029 981 2.1
Footnotes
1 Data for race/ethnicity groups do not sum to totals because data are not presented for all races.
3 Includes persons with a high school diploma or equivalent.
3 Includes persons with bachelor's, master's, professional, and doctoral degrees.
NOTE: Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of January data.

Occupations of Foreign- and US-born Workers, 2017

Employed foreign-born and native-born persons 16 years and over by occupation and sex, 2017 annual averages
[Percent distribution]
Occupation Foreign born Native born
Total Men Women Total Men Women
Total employed (in thousands) 26,254 15,171 11,083 127,083 66,231 60,852
 
Occupation as a percent of total employed  
 
Total employed 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
 
Management, professional, and related occupations 32.3 30.7 34.3 41.3 37.5 45.4
Management, business, and financial operations occupations 12.3 12.6 11.9 17.4 18.6 16.2
Management occupations 8.6 9.6 7.4 12.2 14.0 10.3
Business and financial operations occupations 3.7 3.0 4.6 5.2 4.6 5.9
Professional and related occupations 20.0 18.2 22.4 23.8 18.9 29.2
Computer and mathematical occupations 4.8 6.4 2.5 2.8 3.9 1.6
Architecture and engineering occupations 2.3 3.2 1.0 2.1 3.3 0.7
Life, physical, and social science occupations 1.3 1.2 1.4 0.9 0.9 0.9
Community and social service occupations 0.9 0.6 1.2 1.9 1.2 2.6
Legal occupations 0.5 0.4 0.8 1.3 1.2 1.4
Education, training, and library occupations 3.7 2.2 5.7 6.5 3.3 10.0
Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations 1.4 1.3 1.5 2.3 2.3 2.2
Healthcare practitioners and technical occupations 5.2 2.9 8.4 6.1 2.8 9.7
 
Service occupations 23.9 17.2 33.1 16.1 13.6 18.8
Healthcare support occupations 2.8 0.6 5.8 2.2 0.5 4.0
Protective service occupations 0.8 1.1 0.4 2.3 3.4 1.1
Food preparation and serving related occupations 7.1 6.6 7.8 5.1 4.3 5.9
Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations 8.4 7.0 10.3 2.9 3.7 2.1
Personal care and service occupations 4.8 1.8 8.8 3.7 1.7 5.8
 
Sales and office occupations 15.0 11.1 20.4 23.3 17.0 30.1
Sales and related occupations 7.5 6.7 8.7 10.9 10.6 11.2
Office and administrative support occupations 7.5 4.4 11.8 12.4 6.4 18.9
 
Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations 13.9 22.6 2.0 8.3 15.2 0.8
Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations 1.7 2.1 1.2 0.6 0.9 0.2
Construction and extraction occupations 9.3 15.6 0.5 4.4 8.2 0.3
Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations 2.9 4.8 0.2 3.3 6.1 0.3
 
Production, transportation, and material moving occupations 14.9 18.4 10.1 11.0 16.7 4.9
Production occupations 7.5 7.9 7.0 5.1 7.3 2.7
Transportation and material moving occupations 7.4 10.5 3.1 5.9 9.4 2.1
NOTE: Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of January data.

Median Weekly Earnings of Foreign- and US-born Workers, 2016-17

Median usual weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers for the foreign born and native born by selected characteristics, 2016-2017 annual averages
[Numbers in thousands]
Characteristic 2016 2017
Foreign born Native born Earnings
of foreign
born as
percent of
native
born
Foreign born Native born Earnings
of foreign
born as
percent of
native
born
Number Median
weekly
earnings
Number Median
weekly
earnings
Number Median
weekly
earnings
Number Median
weekly
earnings
Total, 16 years and over 19,463 $715 91,628 $860 83.1 19,914 $730 93,358 $885 82.5
Men 12,008 751 49,922 951 79.0 12,123 776 50,857 978 79.3
Women 7,455 655 41,706 762 86.0 7,791 660 42,501 788 83.8
 
AGE  
16 to 24 years 1,081 497 8,995 502 99.0 1,065 506 9,216 521 97.1
25 to 34 years 4,532 667 22,924 767 87.0 4,610 701 23,586 786 89.2
35 to 44 years 5,432 756 19,851 972 77.8 5,560 790 20,102 1,003 78.8
45 to 54 years 4,929 765 20,723 995 76.9 5,009 760 20,642 1,019 74.6
55 to 64 years 2,774 796 15,722 977 81.5 2,958 765 16,199 1,007 76.0
65 years and over 715 735 3,412 897 81.9 712 721 3,615 937 76.9
 
RACE AND HISPANIC OR LATINO ETHNICITY1  
White non-Hispanic or Latino 2,967 1,025 66,686 927 110.6 3,040 1,080 67,242 955 113.1
Black non-Hispanic or Latino 1,849 693 11,287 677 102.4 1,885 682 11,669 683 99.9
Asian non-Hispanic or Latino 4,993 1,061 1,818 975 108.8 5,189 1,076 1,943 1,007 106.9
Hispanic or Latino ethnicity 9,417 582 9,533 697 83.5 9,579 596 10,036 724 82.3
 
EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT  
Total, 25 years and over 18,383 735 82,633 914 80.4 18,848 751 84,142 937 80.1
Less than a high school diploma 4,051 489 3,057 525 93.1 4,113 506 2,925 560 90.4
High school graduates, no college2 4,379 608 21,096 709 85.8 4,539 619 21,472 734 84.3
Some college or associate degree 2,987 710 24,321 789 90.0 3,003 727 24,384 808 90.0
Bachelor's degree and higher3 6,966 1,311 34,159 1,253 104.6 7,193 1,340 35,362 1,271 105.4
Footnotes
1 Data for race/ethnicity groups do not sum to totals because data are not presented for all races.
2 Includes persons with a high school diploma or equivalent.
3 Includes persons with bachelor's, master's, professional, and doctoral degrees.
NOTE: Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of January data.