Immigrants top native born in U.S. job hunt

migrant_workers.gi.top.jpgImmigrants, such as these farm laborers from Mexico working in Colorado, have gained jobs since the recession was declared ended last year. By Aaron Smith, staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Immigrants have gained hundreds of thousands of jobs since the Great Recession is said to have ended, while U.S.-born workers lost more than a million jobs, according to a study released Friday.

Native-born workers lost 1.2 million jobs in the year following June 2009, when economists say the recession officially ended, reported the Pew Hispanic Center, a division of the Pew Research Center.

In that same period of time, foreign-born workers gained 656,000 jobs, according to the center, which based its analysis on statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Labor.

The study did not specify whether or not the immigrants were authorized to be in the United States. A separate Pew study released earlier this year said 7.8 million immigrants, about a third of the foreign-born labor force, are unauthorized.

The disparity is even more extreme for the two-year period ending June 2010. During that time, foreign-born workers lost 400,000 jobs, while U.S.-born workers lost 5.7 million, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

As a result, immigrants outperformed native-born workers on unemployment rates. The unemployment rate for immigrants was 8.7% in June, the most recent month cited in the study, compared to 9.7% for U.S.-born citizens. During the one-year period ended in June, the immigrant unemployment dropped by 0.6 percentage point, but it gained 0.5 point for native-born workers.

"[Immigrants] started taking an earlier and harder hit during this recession and it could be now that things could be turning up for them sooner," said Rakesh Kochhar, association director of research at the Pew Hispanic Center and co-author of the study. "Native-born workers should soon catch up with them."

One of the reasons why immigrants tend to outperform native-born Americans is because they're willing to take less desirable jobs, said Kochhar.

"They're generally more flexible," he said. "They come here to work. They don't care necessarily whether it's in New York or L.A. or Dallas or Atlanta. They also tend to be more flexible in regards to the wages and the hours they put in."

Immigrants suffered a decline in pay even as they experienced a boom in employment. From 2009 to 2010, the pay for foreign-born workers fell by 4.5%, compared to a decline of less than 1% for U.S.-born workers.

"It might be that in the search for jobs in the recovery, immigrants were more accepting of lower wages and reduced hours because many, especially unauthorized immigrants, are not eligible for unemployment benefits," read the report.

The willingness for immigrants to take jobs that Americans don't want was demonstrated this summer, when the United Farm Workers of America launched its "Take Our Jobs" campaign. In response to anti-immigrant rhetoric, the predominantly Hispanic union offered to place native-born workers in farm jobs. Several thousand Americans responded to the online ad, but only several people actually accepted the back-breaking, low-paying jobs.

Pew also said there is evidence that immigrants are becoming a much larger part of the U.S. work force. Foreign-born workers make up 15.7% of the labor force now, compared to 9.7% in 1995, according to the study. To top of page

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