Capitol Report: Unemployment rate now the same for foreign- and native-born workers

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — For the first time in more than a year, the unemployment rate is the same for both foreign- and native-born workers.

That reflects as much a deterioration of the advantage for foreign-born workers as much as it does improving conditions for those born in the U.S.A.

The unemployment rate for foreign-born workers stayed at 5.8% in February — the highest level since March — while the unemployment rate for native-born workers fell to 5.8% from 6.1%.

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The data suggest that the U.S. economy is producing more high-quality jobs of the sort that are more difficult for the foreign-born workers to get.

Foreign-born households have incomes 11% lower than native-born ones, according to 2013 data from the Census Bureau, though there are also some high-paying fields like computer and mathematical occupations where the foreign-born have strong representation.

Some but probably not many of the foreign-born workers represented in the data are not legally allowed to be in the United States. The Labor Department doesn’t ask those it polls whether they are here legally, but those without documentation aren’t prone to voluntarily responding to questions from federal government workers.

There’s ferocious debate about the economic impact of foreign workers. One expert on the subject, Harvard professor George Borjas, estimates that immigration, both legal and illegal, hurts wages of natives without a high-school diploma, while providing a marginal benefit more generally to native-born workers. – Top Stories

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