Is There a Link Between Immigration and Unemployment?

There is frequently controversy regarding the effects that immigration might have on unemployment rates, especially when a large section of the population is struggling financially. News of corporations seeking H‑1B visas erroneously advances the idea that employers actively recruit foreign workers rather than hire native-born ones. However, there is no link between immigration rates and unemployment patterns. This is due to job market demographics and the benefits immigrants bring to communities.


Immigrants and native-born workers are not usually competing in the same job markets. They offer different education levels and skills. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, foreign workers were more likely than native-born employees to work in service occupations, including transportation, natural resources, maintenance and construction. Native-born workers faced a greater likelihood of employment in management, professional and sales positions. There is no competition for positions in this scenario.

The earnings disparity between foreign and native-born workers is very wide. In 2015, the average weekly wage for foreign-born workers was $681, which is significantly less than the $837 average for their native-born colleagues. This is likely due to the differences in service occupations versus managerial or professional ones, and further confirms the lack of competition between foreign-born and native-born employees.

Looking at this alone, immigrants do not compete with most native-born workers for jobs. However, there have been concerns about work availability for working class minorities when immigrants move into their communities.


Minority unemployment is often the major issue in these discussions. Even with H-1B visas, companies are not allowed to recruit exclusively among foreign workers or offer those workers a lower salary than would be received by a native-born employee. This visa category also affects only the highly educated, a demographic with low unemployment in the United States. However, in communities where there are primarily service jobs, there is concern that working-class immigrants push out native-born workers with similar skills.

Still, even this conclusion is not backed by the evidence. An Immigration Policy Center Special Report reveals that areas with higher immigration from Latin American countries experience lower poverty and unemployment rates. The same report indicates that immigrants did not displace African American workers, but complemented them. Positions that became available simply could not be filled at the current population level. Immigration helped in these cases.

There are also effects that create jobs. Additional workers spending money in the United States increases opportunities and often require companies (especially retailers) to hire additional employees. Immigrants are also more likely than native-born residents to start their own businesses and employ additional workers—foreign and native-born alike.

Immigrants and their potential employers need to secure the correct visas in order to continue working and living in United States. This process can be challenging and time-consuming. If you require assistance in obtaining an immigrant visa, contact us today.

Share This