Number of immigrant workers in the U.S. reaches a new high

Immigrants have now reached a record share of total U.S. workers: 29.8 million in 2022.

The share of immigrant workers in the U.S. labor force reached a record high last year, according to new data from the Department of Labor (DOL).

The new government data referring to the year 2022 reveals that nearly 1 in 5 workers were born outside the United States to parents who are not U.S. citizens, representing a record share of the labor force.

That reverses a drop that was recorded during the Covid pandemic, when the share of foreign-born workers declined, an unusual reversal in a trend that has been rising since at least 1996.

The share of immigrants in the labor force rose to 18.1% last year, up from 17.4% in 2021, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said in its report .

  • The number of foreign-born workers in the U.S. rose to 29.8 million in 2022, up from 27.9 million the previous year, an increase of about 6%.
  • The number of native-born workers rose from 133.2 million to 134.5 million, up just 1%.
  • Foreign-born workers had an unemployment rate of 3.4% in 2022, compared with 3.7% for U.S.-born people, the BLS said.

What kinds of jobs do immigrants have?

Foreign-born workers are more likely than U.S.-born workers to work in service industry, natural resource, construction and maintenance jobs, the government said. They are also more likely to work in production, transportation and material moving jobs.

In comparison, U.S.-born workers are more likely to work in managerial and professional positions.

Despite policies against them, immigrants are doing their job
Immigration rebounded last year, according to U.S. Census data, which found that the nation experienced the largest single-year increase in immigrants since 2010. About 1 million people immigrated to the U.S. in 2022, up from its recent low of 376,000 people in 2021, according to that federal agency.

A key factor is that a higher proportion of the immigrant population is of working age (18-64), at 77%, according to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a nonpartisan organization dedicated to analyzing global and U.S. immigration. That compares with about 59% of the native-born population.

Immigration opponents might look at the record number of foreign-born workers and argue that foreign-born workers are somehow stealing jobs from Americans, but that’s not what’s happening.

Although there was a large increase in net immigration in 2022, essentially catching up to the COVID drop, there were plenty of jobs to go around, as according to Commerce Department data in its February 2023 monthly report, the unemployment rate reached only 3.4%, the lowest rate in 54 years.

The data comes at a time when immigration is in the spotlight due to the expiration of Title 42, an emergency immigration restriction that allowed the U.S. to expel millions of migrants to Mexico or their countries of origin due to the Covid pandemic.

Meanwhile, some states, such as Texas and Florida, are moving forward with new laws to end immigration.

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