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April 2003, Volume 9, Number 2

US: Employment, Unauthorized, Census

The US unemployment rate was six percent in December 2002, 5.7 percent in January 2003, and 5.8 percent in February. In 2001-02, the US lost a net 1.6 million jobs, the majority in the high-tech and manufacturing sectors, and in early 2003, the US was losing 10,000 jobs a day. Some 260,000 Americans with college degrees were out of work more than six months at the end of 2002; their unemployment rate doubled to three percent.

Hispanic employment rose by 600,000 to 16.7 million in this period, while non-Hispanic employment fell from 121.5 million to 119.7 million. The Hispanic trajectory is different for two reasons. First, the number of Hispanics is growing fast and they have a high employment-population ratio, 63.6 percent in February 2003, compared to 62.4 for all US residents.

The fact that a third of the Hispanic workers may be unauthorized helps to explain the high employment-population ratio- unauthorized workers are generally not eligible for UI benefits. Second, Hispanics tend to earn lower wages in the most stable US sector: services, a median of $21,000 a year, which is 20 percent less than Blacks and 35 percent less than whites. In one short-hand summary, Blacks have higher wages and more unstable employment; Hispanics have lower wages and more stable employment.

President Bush wants to overhaul US employment and training programs, and in January 2002 he proposed $3,000 "personal re-employment accounts." Individuals with PEAs could use the money for expenses that help them find new jobs, such as job training, transportation or child care, and keep what is left of the $3,000 once they are rehired. They would receive 60 percent of their PEA funds as soon as they start work, and the remaining 40 percent after six months employment. The federal government spends about $800 million a year on employment services, and $2 billion on training programs.

Unemployment insurance partially replaces the earnings of laid-off workers, usually for 26 weeks, with 13-week extensions in times of high unemployment. States set the benefits, a maximum of $205 a week in Arizona and $768 in Massachusetts, and collect taxes from employers to pay them. The self-employed do not get UI benefits; some 6.2 million US workers were self-employed early in 2003.

President Bush proposed the first changes in wage and hour rules since 1975. The proposal would require workers to earn at least $22,100 a year to be exempt from overtime pay of 1.5 times the usual wage after 10 hours a day or 40 hours a week, up from the current $8,060 a year. If adopted, 1.3 million more lower-income workers would receive overtime pay, but many of the 640,000 workers earning $65,000 a year or more would no longer qualify for overtime. About 70 million US workers qualify for overtime because of automatic provisions or because their jobs are not considered exempt executive, administrative or professional ones.

Unauthorized. The INS estimated there were seven million unauthorized foreigners in the US in January 2000, twice the 3.5 million estimate for 1990. Some 13.5 million foreigners are estimated to have arrived in the 1990s, and eight million of these 1990s arrivals were living in the US legally in 2000, suggesting 5.5 million unauthorized residents who arrived in the 1990s. An additional 1.5 million unauthorized foreigners are estimated to have arrived in the US before 1990 and were living in the US in 2000, for a total seven million.

About 4.8 million or 70 percent of the unauthorized were Mexicans, up from two million, 58 percent, in 1990. More than 100,000 unauthorized foreigners from El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Honduras, China and Ecuador, were living in the US in 2000. California had the most unauthorized foreigners, 2.2 million or a third of the total, so that almost seven percent of California residents were unauthorized.

The INS said that a 2001 Census Bureau estimate of 8.7 million illegal immigrants included some foreigners who had permission to live or work in the US. The census put the number of unauthorized Mexicans at 3.9 million; the INS at 4.8 million. However, the census estimated 1.1 million unauthorized Europeans, while the INS estimated far fewer.

Foreign-Born. There were 32.5 million foreign-born residents of the US in 2001, according to the March 2002 CPS, up 2.5 million from 2000; this made the foreign-born 11.5 percent of the 282.1 million US residents. About 17 million of the foreign-born were from Latin America, and half arrived after 1990. About 26 percent of the foreign-born adults had a BA or more, the same rate as US-born residents, while 20 percent of the foreign-born had less than a ninth-grade education, compared to five percent of US-born adults.

Of the foreign-born from Latin America, 70 percent were from Mexico and Central America; 18 percent were from the Caribbean; and 12 percent were from South America.

Hispanics are the largest US minority group. In July 2001, the US had 285 million residents, including 37 million Hispanics and 36 million Blacks, plus 196 million non-Hispanic whites; 11 million Asian-Americans; and 3.5 million American Indians, Alaska Natives, or Native Hawaiians. Hispanics may be of any race.

Over half of Latinos are in Texas, California and New York, and a quarter of Hispanics are non-US citizens. Mexican-born US residents are scattered across the country. In 1988, 75 percent of Mexicans in the United States were in 33 counties; by 2000, 75 percent were in 114 counties in 26 states.

Latinos are 30 percent of California's population, but at the end of 2001, 51 percent of the babies born in the state were Latino; whites 31 percent; Asians 11 percent; and Blacks six percent. Based on birthrate trends, Latinos will be the majority of children entering California kindergartens in the fall of 2006; the majority entering high school in 2014; the majority of workers entering the labor force in 2017; and the majority turning 18 and eligible to vote by 2019. In 1980, Hispanics accounted for just 29 percent of California births.

California had 35.3 million residents in July 2002, up 603,000 from 2001 levels, reflecting 528,000 births, 233,000 deaths, and 308,000 immigrants. http://www.dof.ca.gov) The labor force expands by 250,000 a year, the number of households to be housed by 200,000 a year, and the number of K-12 pupils by about 50,000 a year. California is expected to have 40 million residents in 2010, and 50 million between 2025 and 2030.


Schmidley, Diane. 2003. The Foreign-Born Population in the United States: March 2002. US Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/p20-539.pdf


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