CSII Publications

Immigrant Labor and the American Recovery: A Brief Memo

By Manuel Pastor and Justin Scoggins 
University of Southern California

This brief memo re-examined the findings of a report by the Pew Hispanic Center (After the Great Recession: Foreign Born Gain Jobs; Native Born Lose Jobs, by Rakesh Kochhar, C. Soledad Espinoza and Rebecca Hinze-Pifer, October 2010) which pointed to large immigrant jobs gains alongside native-born job losses since the beginning of the economic recovery.

This analysis drew attention to the volatility of the native- and foreign-born population estimates derived using the Current Population Survey (CPS) – the data set used in Kochhar, et al.'s report – and suggested that a focus on share measures, like the unemployment rate, might be more appropriate. It also suggested that the “official” dating of the recovery from June 2009 may have been misleading.

Utilizing the same CPS data but a more appropriate specification of the timing of the Great Recession and its aftermath yielded rather different results. The progress on unemployment rates in the recovery since the trough had actually been more positive for the native-born than for the foreign-born. The report suggested that while immigration may have certain negative effects on less-skilled workers, immigrants are generally good for the economy and are an important part of any long-term recovery. 

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