Foreign Labor Now Makes Up One-Fifth Of American Workforce

( – Foreign-born workers made up more than 18% of the U.S. workforce in 2022, up about half a percentage point from 2021 numbers.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is a record high. Hispanics are nearly half the foreign-born workers, with Asians coming in at about one-quarter of that total.

And wages between native-born American workers and those born elsewhere are fairly close, with foreign-born workers earning a weekly average of $945 compared to $1,087 for native-born workers. 

The increasing percentage of foreign-born workers is likely due in part to an aging U.S. workforce without enough younger people to step in. Labor shortages across sectors that began during the pandemic are still affecting businesses from food service to building construction. 

The increased share of the workforce made up of foreign-born workers has been helped by countries including the US that have relaxed travel and immigration restrictions put in place during the pandemic. 

There are differences in the kinds of jobs done by native-born workers and foreign ones, on average. Native-born people held a greater number of white-collar jobs such as management and sales, compared to foreign workers. These are more likely to work in construction, food service, and maintenance jobs. 

All told, there are more than 30 million foreign-born workers in the US as of April 2023, again according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Before pandemic lockdowns were put in place, there were 27.7 million. But three years ago prior to the pandemic, there were 22 million foreign-born workers. This compares to a total of 131 million native-born American workers today. 

At the same time, a surge in illegal immigration has the country roiled, with the federal and state governments accusing each other of doing nothing to fix the problem. Last month, a pandemic-era rule, Title 42, expired. Title 42 was used by both Presidents Trump and Biden to quickly turn away more than 2.8 million immigration hopefuls on public health grounds.

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