On Thursday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, released a report on labor force characteristics involving foreign-born workers. According to the report, foreign-born workers now account for 17.4% of all U.S. employees, which is the highest percentage ever recorded since the U.S. Department of Labor began tracking the statistic two decades ago. In 2000, the share of the labor force that was foreign born was 13.3 percent.
The report defines “foreign-born” individuals as those who reside in the United States but who were born outside the United States and neither parent was a U.S. citizen. Foreign-born individuals include legally-admitted immigrants, refugees, temporary residents such as students and temporary workers, and undocumented immigrants.
Among other highlights in the report is that foreign-born men participate in the labor force at a rate over ten percentage points higher (77.9 %) than native-born men (67.3%). Additionally, the median weekly earnings of foreign-born full-time workers ($758) is significantly less than the median weekly earnings for native-born workers ($910).
The difference in earnings reflects several factors including differences in education levels, occupation, industry of work, and geographic region. As for education levels, the proportion of the foreign-born labor force age 25 and over that had not completed high school was 21.2 percent in 2018, much higher than the figure for the native-born labor force, at 4.1 percent.
While native-born workers earn more than foreign-born workers at most educational attainment levels, there is a relatively small gap between the earnings of foreign-born and native-born workers who have a bachelor’s degree and higher. Among those with a bachelor’s degree and higher, the earnings of foreign-born workers ($1,362) were actually slightly higher than the earnings of native-born workers ($1,309).