Labor Force Characteristics of Foreign-born Workers Summary

For release 10:00 a.m. (EDT) Thursday, May 19, 2016                         USDL-16-0989

Technical information: (202) 691-6378  *  cpsinfo@bls.gov  *  www.bls.gov/cps
Media contact:         (202) 691-5902  *  PressOffice@bls.gov


                      FOREIGN-BORN WORKERS: LABOR FORCE CHARACTERISTICS -- 2015


The unemployment rate for foreign-born persons in the United States was 4.9 percent
in 2015, down from 5.6 percent in 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported
today. The jobless rate of native-born persons fell to 5.4 percent from 6.3 percent in
the prior year.

Data on nativity are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly
sample survey of approximately 60,000 households. The foreign born are persons who
reside in the United States but who were born outside the country or one of its outlying
areas to parents who were not U.S. citizens. The foreign born include legally-admitted
immigrants, refugees, temporary residents such as students and temporary workers, and
undocumented immigrants. The survey data, however, do not separately identify the
numbers of persons in these categories. For further information about the survey, see
the Technical Note in this news release.

Highlights from the 2015 data:

   --In 2015, there were 26.3 million foreign-born persons in the U.S. labor force,
     comprising 16.7 percent of the total. (See table 1.)

   --Hispanics accounted for 48.8 percent of the foreign-born labor force in 2015
     and Asians accounted for 24.1 percent. (See table 1.) (Data in this news
     release for persons who are White, Black, or Asian do not include those of
     Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. Data on persons of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity
     are presented separately.)

   --Foreign-born workers were more likely than native-born workers to be employed
     in service occupations; natural resources, construction, and maintenance
     occupations; and production, transportation, and material moving occupations.
     Native-born workers were more likely than foreign-born workers to be employed
     in management, professional, and related occupations and sales and office
     occupations. (See table 4.)

   --The median usual weekly earnings of foreign-born full-time wage and salary
     workers were $681 in 2015, compared with $837 for their native-born
     counterparts. (See table 5.) (Differences in earnings reflect a variety of
     factors, including variations in the distributions of foreign-born and
     native-born workers by educational attainment, occupation, industry, and
     geographic region.)

Demographic Characteristics

The demographic composition of the foreign-born labor force differs from that of the
native-born labor force. In 2015, men accounted for 58.3 percent of the foreign-born
labor force, compared with 52.2 percent of the native-born labor force. By age, the
proportion of the foreign-born labor force made up of 25- to 54-year-olds (73.7
percent) was higher than for the native-born labor force (62.5 percent). Labor force
participation is typically highest among persons in that age bracket. (See table 1.)

In 2015, nearly half (48.8 percent) of the foreign-born labor force was Hispanic, and
almost one-quarter (24.1 percent) was Asian, compared with 10.2 percent and 1.9 percent,
respectively, of the native-born labor force. About 16.8 percent of the foreign-born
labor force was White and 9.2 percent was Black, compared with 73.4 percent and 12.1
percent, respectively, of the native-born labor force.

In 2015, 23.9 percent of the foreign-born labor force age 25 and over had not completed
high school, compared with 4.6 percent of the native-born labor force. The foreign born
were less likely than the native born to have some college or an associate degree--16.9
percent versus 29.9 percent. The proportions for foreign-born and native-born persons
that had a bachelor's degree and higher were more similar, at 34.9 percent and 39.1
percent, respectively.

Labor Force

The share of the U.S. civilian labor force that was foreign born was 16.7 percent
in 2015; it was 16.5 percent in 2014. (See table 1.)

In 2015, the labor force participation rate of the foreign born was 65.2 percent, down
from 66.0 percent in the prior year. The participation rate for the native born edged
down to 62.2 percent in 2015.

The participation rate of foreign-born men was 78.2 percent in 2015, higher than the
rate of 67.3 percent for native-born men. In contrast, 52.9 percent of foreign-born
women were labor force participants, lower than the rate of 57.4 percent for native-born
women.

Among the major race and ethnicity groups in 2015, labor force participation rates
for foreign-born Asians and Hispanics declined to 62.6 percent and 68.2 percent,
respectively. The rates for foreign-born Whites (58.7 percent) and Blacks (70.8
percent) were little different from the prior year. In comparison, the participation
rate for native-born Whites (62.3 percent) declined in 2015, while the rates for
Blacks (60.0 percent), Asians (62.4 percent), and Hispanics (63.9 percent) showed
little change.

In 2015, foreign-born mothers with children under 18 years old were less likely to
be labor force participants than were native-born mothers--57.8 percent versus 73.4
percent. Labor force participation differences between foreign-born and native-born
mothers were greater among those with younger children than among those with older
children. The labor force participation rate of foreign-born mothers with children
under age 6 was 48.8 percent in 2015, much lower than that for native-born mothers
with children under age 6, at 68.6 percent. Among women with children under age 3, the
participation rate for the foreign born (45.0 percent) was 20.7 percentage points below
that for native-born mothers (65.7 percent). The labor force participation rates of
foreign-born and native-born fathers with children under age 18 were more similar, at
93.6 percent and 92.4 percent, respectively. (See table 2.)

By region, the foreign born made up a larger share of the labor force in the West
(24.0 percent) and in the Northeast (19.5 percent) than for the nation as a whole 
(16.7 percent) in 2015. In contrast, the foreign born made up a smaller share of the
labor force than for the nation as a whole in the South (15.5 percent) and Midwest
(8.7 percent). (See table 6.)

Unemployment

From 2014 to 2015, the unemployment rate of the foreign born declined from 5.6 percent
to 4.9 percent, and the jobless rate for the native born fell from 6.3 percent to
5.4 percent. The over-the-year decrease in the unemployment rates of the foreign born
and the native born reflected decreases in the rates for both men and women. The
unemployment rate for foreign-born men fell from 5.0 percent to 4.5 percent, and the
rate for foreign-born women declined from 6.5 percent to 5.6 percent. Among the native
born, the rate for men fell from 6.5 percent to 5.6 percent, while the rate for women
was down from 6.0 percent to 5.1 percent. (See table 1.)

For both the foreign born and the native born, jobless rates vary considerably by race
and ethnicity.  Among the foreign born, Blacks had the highest unemployment rate (7.4
percent) in 2015. The unemployment rates were 5.4 percent for Hispanics, 4.0 percent
for Whites, and 3.7 percent for Asians. Among the native born, Blacks also had the
highest jobless rate (9.9 percent) in 2015, followed by Hispanics (7.8 percent). The
unemployment rates were 4.3 percent for Asians and 4.2 percent for Whites.

Occupation

In 2015, foreign-born workers were more likely than native-born workers to be employed
in service occupations (23.4 percent versus 16.2 percent); production, transportation,
and material moving occupations (15.4 percent versus 11.1 percent); and natural
resources, construction, and maintenance occupations (13.8 percent versus 8.3 percent).
(See table 4.)

Native-born workers were more likely than foreign-born workers to be employed in
management, professional, and related occupations (40.6 percent versus 30.8 percent)
and sales and office occupations (23.8 percent versus 16.6 percent).

Foreign-born men were more likely than their native-born counterparts to work in natural
resources, construction, and maintenance occupations and in service occupations. Compared
with native-born women, foreign-born women were more likely to be in service occupations
and in production, transportation, and material moving occupations. Among women, the
disparity was especially great in service occupations; 32.1 percent of foreign-born women
worked in service occupations in 2015, compared with 19.2 percent of native-born women.
Native-born men and women workers were more likely than their foreign-born counterparts
to be employed in management, professional, and related occupations and sales and office
occupations.

Earnings

In 2015, the median usual weekly earnings of foreign-born, full-time wage and salary
workers ($681) were 81.4 percent of the earnings of their native-born counterparts
($837). Among men, median weekly earnings for the foreign-born men ($712) were 76.2
percent of the earnings of their native-born counterparts ($934). Median earnings for
foreign-born women ($626) were 84.6 percent of the earnings of their native-born
counterparts ($740). Differences in earnings reflect a variety of factors, including
variations in the distributions of foreign-born and native-born workers by educational
attainment, occupation, industry, and geographic region. (See table 5.)

Among the major race and ethnicity groups, Hispanic foreign-born full-time wage and
salary workers earned 80.7 percent as much as their native-born counterparts in 2015.
For White, Black, and Asian workers, earnings for the foreign born and the native born
were relatively close within each group. The earnings of both foreign-born and native-
born workers increase with education. In 2015, foreign-born workers age 25 and over with
less than a high school education earned $476 per week, while those with a bachelor's
degree and higher earned about 2.6 times as much--$1,259 per week. Among the native born,
those with a bachelor's degree and higher earned about 2.4 times as much as those with
less than a high school education--$1,225 per week versus $519 per week.

Native-born workers earn more than the foreign born at most educational attainment
levels. The gap between the earnings of foreign-born and native-born workers closes
at higher levels of education. For example, among high school graduates (no college),
full-time workers who were foreign born earned 86.1 percent as much in 2015 as their
native-born counterparts. Among those with a bachelor's degree and higher, the median
weekly earnings of foreign-born workers ($1,259) and native-born workers ($1,225) were
relatively close.



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Last Modified Date: May 19, 2016