Immigrant Workers Gain Economic Ground While U.S. Natives Slip, Study Shows

A new study released Friday by the Pew Hispanic Center confirms that immigrants are benefiting before native-born workers from the slow-paced economic recovery.

Foreigners gained 656,000 jobs in the first year following the official end of the recession in June 2009. Native-born workers lost 1.2 million jobs, according to an analysis of government data by Pew, a nonpartisan research group.

As a result, the unemployment rate for immigrant workers fell to 8.7 percent from 9.3 percent between June 2009 and June 2010. For native-born workers, the rate rose to 9.7 percent from 9.2 percent.

"The bottom line is simple: There is a substantial difference in how economic recovery is working for native-born and foreign-born workers," said Rakesh Kochhar, Pew's associate director of research. "For the native born, you see ongoing discouragement in their job search."

The study is based on analysis of the Current Population Survey, conducted jointly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau.

Immigrant presence in the U.S. labor force has been increasing for several decades, with foreign-born workers now representing 16 percent of the U.S. labor force, up from 10 percent in 1995.

As the economy improves, foreign-born workers have taken different sorts of jobs than those available at the height of the economic boom, when more than half their job gains were in construction. During the recovery, more immigrants have taken jobs in hospital services, education and other sectors, the Pew report notes.

"For many immigrants, sending money back to their home country is a key part of working here," says Mr. Kochhar. "This makes them more open to doing different jobs."

Immigrants also tend to be more flexible about their wage expectations and more mobile than native-born workers.

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