The great demographic shift in the American workforce

In the past ten years, the American workforce has been growing in total largely on the strength of increases in foreign born labor. Among the ranks of the employed, foreign-born worker growth’s role has been even more pronounced.
An article in the May 2002 issue of the Monthly Labor Review has data to show the impact of foreign-born labor. The authors reported that for the year 2000, three quarters of the growth in the workforce was from foreign labor. In that year, employment among non foreign-born workers actually declined by 491,000 while employment among foreign-born workers rose by 897,000.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more recently that in 2004 the total number of foriegn-born workforce was about 21.4 million, or 14.5.% of thr total labor force. Slightly under half of the workforce growth between 2002 and 2004 was foreign-born.
Foreign born labor has entered employment rolls in an hour glass fashion: a small absolute number in the highly trained professions, a much larger number and much larger proportional impact in the bottom quarter of jobs as defined by educational requirements.
Between 1996 and 2000, foreign-born labor accounted for 49% of the increase in the workforce. (As the 2000 data above show, this percentage increased in 2000 alone.) For workforce members without a high school diploma, the total number in America declined by 393,000 but the total number of foreign-born workers with less than a high school diploma went up by 654,000. Thus, foreign-born workers were rapidly filling the ranks of the low educated that were being emptied by non-foreign born.
For the occupational category of “operators, fabricators and laborer,” total workforce growth in 1996-2000 was 105,000. However the workforce growth among foreign born was 664,000, indicating that non-foreign born ranks declined while foreign born workers flooded in.

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