Report: Immigrant Workforce Growing

A growing portion of the nation's workforce is made up of people who weren't born here.  According to a new annual report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, foreign-born workers now account for 16.9 percent of the U.S. labor force, totaling nearly 27 million in 2016.  That's about 700,000 higher than the previous year and the highest percentage of the workforce dating back to 1996.

The immigrant workforce population cuts across multiple job sectors.  "It's among high-skilled, middle-skilled and low-skilled workers, with a special emphasis on low-skilled workers," says Michael Fix, president of the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute.  He tells KTRH that contrary to frequent claims, immigrants aren't just doing the jobs that native-born workers won't do.  "You have to recognize that a quarter of our doctors in the United States are foreign-born," says Fix.

Of course, many of these foreign-born workers are not here legally.  "Unauthorized immigrants represent about a quarter of all foreign-born workers in the United States," says Fix.  Migration Policy Institute data shows that there were 245,000 illegal immigrants in Harris County who were either employed or unemployed and looking for work between 2010 and 2014.

While the percentage of immigrants in the workforce has been steadily growing over the past two decades, Fix expects that trend to reverse soon.  "Where you're going to see growth in the working-age population (in the years ahead) is among the second generation, which is the children of immigrants, who are U.S. citizens," he says.  Another possible factor in driving down the immigrant worker population is the new immigration policy of President Donald Trump.

In Texas, there is an even larger proportion of foreign-born workers in the workforce.  According to U.S. Census data, in 2015 immigrants represented 21 percent of the civilian labor force in Texas.

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