Immigrants joining U.S. workforce at greatly increased levels

August 29, 2023

Immigrants are joining the U.S. workforce at much higher levels than in the past, according to a new report from Goldman Sachs. 

Between January 2020—just before the Covid pandemic hit—and July 2023, the immigrant labor force grew by 9.5%. That’s compared to a 1.5% growth rate among the U.S.-born Americans.

The rising employment among immigrants comes as the United States continues to suffer a post-pandemic worker shortage. As of this month, the latest data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows 9.8 million job openings in the U.S. but only 5.9 million unemployed workers.

The stats on immigrant employment is due to a number of factors. For instance, the rate at which the U.S. is giving out both temporary and permanent work visas, or “green cards,” has risen by about 335,000 workers per year over the past 12 months to a level near record highs. That’s in part because the federal government has begun to clear a backlog more than 500,000 visa applications that built up during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, much of the immigrant work force is younger than retiring, U.S.-born Boomers.

Further, the foreign-born labor participation rate—the percentage of people who are either working or looking for work—jumped by 2.3 percentage points to 67% over the past two years. By contrast, the U.S.-born labor participation rate has risen by only 0.4 points, to 62.2%.

According to Goldman economist Tim Krupa, the unemployment rate in normal times holds steady at about 75,000 workers per month. Because of the increase in immigrant workers, the U.S. can currently absorb some 125,000 new jobs per month without driving unemployment even lower.

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