Immigration: Employment Picture Bleak In States Represented by Gang Of Eight

by Marguerite Telford –

Unemployment for U.S. Citizens in these States among Highest in Country. Yet Senators Push for More Immigration.

WASHINGTON, DC (March 21, 2013) — Eight U.S. Senators from seven states – Rubio (R-FL), McCain (R-AZ), Graham (R-SC), Flake (R-AZ), Schumer (D-NY), Menendez (D-NJ), Bennet (D-CO), and Durbin (D-IL) – have proposed an immigration plan allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the country and increasing legal immigration in the future. A number of the Gang of Eight (Gof8) senators have made clear that they feel that there is a labor shortage, especially of workers to fill low-skilled jobs. (See their comments below).

As part of the Gof8 efforts, labor and business leaders are negotiating a new program to bring in more immigrants to fill “lesser-skilled” jobs. However, as shown by the Center for Immigration Studies’ new analysis, employment data does not support the idea that there is a shortage of low-skilled labor. In fact, unemployment and non-work are more pronounced for less-educated U.S. citizens in the states represented by the Gof8 than in the nation as a whole.

“It is ironic that legislators from states with some of the highest unemployment rates are focused on making it easier for illegal immigrants to find work and on bringing in more workers. They seem unaware of the extraordinarily high unemployment figures among less-educated U.S. citizens,” comments the report’s lead author Dr. Steve Camarota,the Center’s Director of Research.

The complete study:

Among the report’s findings:

In the seven states represented by the Gang of Eight (Gof8), the unemployment rate for U.S. citizens with no more than a high school education averaged 12.6% in 2012. This is higher than the 10.2% average for less-educated citizens in the other 43 states.

The broader measure of unemployment (referred to as U-6), which includes those who want to work but have not looked recently, shows unemployment averaged 21.7% for less-educated citizens in the Gof8 states for 2012. This is markedly higher than the 18.3% average in the other 43 states.

In the Gof8 states, U-6 unemployment was among the highest for citizens with no more than a high school education in 2012:
24.4% in Arizona, 4th highest in the country
22.1% in South Carolina, 8th highest in the country
22.0% in Illinois, 9th highest in the country
21.9% in New Jersey, 11th highest in the country
20.6% in Florida, 15th highest in the country
20.5% in New York, 18th highest in the country
20.1% in Colorado, 19th highest in the country

Looking at all less-educated citizens (ages 18 to 65) shows 41.8% did not have job in 2012 in the Gof8 states, compared to an average of 37.9% in the other 43 states. This includes the unemployed and those entirely out of the labor market.

In 2012, there were 6.5 million less-educated citizens (age 18 to 65) not working in the Gof8 states. Nationally, a total of 27.7 million less-educated citizens were not working.
Comments by some of the Gang of Eight

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaking to a Rotary Club in South Carolina in February 2013 stated that he was “trying to save our nation from, I think, a shortage of labor…”

On his web site Senator John McCain (R-AZ) discusses the need for more immigrant workers in many parts of the economy and he makes clear that Americans “don’t generally want the low-paying, low-skilled jobs.” He goes on to argue that the nation needs more foreign workers because “Our native-born work force is getting older. It’s shrinking – remember, our birth rates are falling.”

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal Sen. McCain also discussed the need to allow in more workers, particularly “low-skilled workers” and “agricultural workers.”


Data. The data for this analysis comes from the monthly public-use files of the Current Population Surveys (CPS) for 2000, 2007, and 2012. Each year represent 12 months of data averaged together. Each month the CPS includes about 131,000 respondents, roughly half of whom are in the labor force. The tables presented here are reported by quarter. By averaging 12 months together and creating yearly estimates it is possible to create a statistically robust figure at the state level. The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses the same approach. All CPS respondents are asked their citizenship. This report uses the responses to the citizenship in the public use data to report employment statistics for U.S. citizens (native-born and naturalized).

Defining Unemployment. The standard measure of unemployment, referred to as U-3, takes the number of people who report that they are not working and have looked for a job in the last four weeks and divides it by the number actually working plus those looking for work. The broader measure of unemployment, referred to as U-6, includes those who are involuntary part-time (i.e., would prefer a full-time job but can’t find one), and others who indicate that they want and are available for jobs, and they have looked for work in the past 12 months. They are not part of U-3 unemployment because they have not looked for a job in the prior four weeks.

Contact: Marguerite Telford

The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research organization founded in 1985. It is the nation’s only think tank devoted exclusively to research and policy analysis of the economic, social, demographic, fiscal, and other impacts of immigration on the United States.

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