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Immigrants taking all the jobs? Look again

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After the release of a miserable jobs report Friday, some have seen fit to claim that employment is rising only for immigrants, and plummeting for native-born Americans. But a closer look at the numbers reveals a different story.

It is true that, according to the household survey, employment among native-born Americans slid from 124,314,000 in August to 124,052,000 in September. This came as the number of employed foreign-born American rose from 24,914,000 in August to 24,928,000 in September.

But there's a problem with the "they took our jobs" storyline.

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The number of unemployed foreign-born Americans also rose, from 1,142,000 to 1,204,000. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed native-born Americans fell from 7,021,000 to 6,423,000.

For that reason, the unemployment rate for foreign-born Americans rose by 0.2 percent, while the unemployment rate for native-born Americans actually fell by 0.4 percent — exactly the opposite of the shift some see occurring.

(Native-born Americans do still have a slightly higher unemployment rate, at 4.9 percent versus 4.3 percent. But at 61.8 percent versus 64.8 percent on the participation rate, fewer native-born people are in the labor force at all.)

Chart: What's the real unemployment rate?

So what's going on here? Are all the jobs going to foreign-born Americans, or not?

Quite simply, the overall number of native-born Americans in the labor force is falling, while the number of foreign-born Americans in the labor force is rising. That's why both employment and unemployment are falling for native-born Americans; it's the total group that is shrinking. This comes as more immigrants are in the labor force.

The numbers, then, should be taken as an indication of shifting demographics, rather than a shifting employment situation.

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