After last week’s jobs report came out, a piece on Breitbart.com blared the headine, “Net U.S. Job Gains Since The Recession Have Gone To Foreign-Born Workers.”
You may not be surprised to learn that headline is incorrect. The U.S. has added more than 9 million employees since the recession ended in January 2010, and more than 6 million of these have gone to people born in America.
What is true, however, is that the native-born employed population has still not returned to its pre-crisis peak, though it is of course much higher…
Whereas foreign-born workers have.
Indeed, the unemployment rate for natives stands at 6.1 percent, whereas the foreign-born rate is 5.8 percent.
And as you can see, even prior to the recession, the foreign-born population almost always had a lower rate.
Why is this the case?
Kurt Mitman, a professor at Stockholm University who just released a study on unemployment, said that many native workers may not face the same kinds of pressures foreign workers to do to find jobs when they don’t have them.
“Imagine someone comes to the U.S. for college,” he said. “Once they graduate they have six months to find a job, or have to return to their home country because the student visa expires.”
The same thing happens when someone comes to the U.S. on a work visa, he said.
In an interview with Politifact this December, Dallas Federal Reserve vice president and senior economist Pia Orrenius said foreign-born workers may be best suited to respond to the labor market’s unfortunate hollowing out of skill sets.
"Labor markets are polarizing and middle-skill jobs are disappearing," she said. "Natives tend to be middle-skilled compared to immigrants who are concentrated mostly on the low-skill end but also on the high-skill end."
And unlike foreign-born workers, natives also tend to have higher savings rates, which can get them through bouts of unemployment while they look for better jobs.
Finally, she said, natives tend to be more tied to financial commitments that make them less mobile than foreign-born workers, who may be able to move around more freely to find work.
Mitman believes youth joblessness in general is especially problematic because lots of young people don’t have access to unemployment insurance, since many haven’t worked long enough somewhere to receive it.
“I think the problem really is, are we providing young people with adequate skills to be competitive in today's labor market?”
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.