More Immigrants Than Ever in the US Labor Force

Immigrants form a growing share of the workforce in the US, though the trend could be interrupted by attempts to overhaul the nation’s immigration policy. The number of foreign-born workers in the US hit a peak of almost 27 million last year, which is a rise of 700,000 from 2015. They now represent 16.9 percent of the labor force of the US.

The figures were revealed on Thursday, with the release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual report. They are the highest proportion recorded two decades since 1996 when 10.8 percent of the US workforce was accounted for by immigrants. That share has risen over the last six years, after a minor dip during the last recession, which resulted in the disproportionate suffering of foreign-born workers as construction employment felt the brunt of the housing market collapse.

In the 20 years between 1996 and 2016, the labor force as a whole increased to around 25 million, almost half of which were the result of gains from foreign-born workers, according to the data. But, the report does not distinguish between undocumented immigrants, legal immigrants, temporary residents, and refugees, but simply counts those born overseas as non-Americans.

Employers have come to rely on foreign workers when they are filling positions in several industries, including information technology and construction, although research is mixed on whether native-born workers are hurt or helped by immigrants.