Shifting demographics nationwide are changing the face of American employment. Immigrants make up 13 percent of the population and 17 percent of the workforce, but their employment patterns contrast with those of their U.S.-born counterparts across industries and states. Understanding these differences nationally and within each state is vital for policymakers as they consider strategies to boost their economies and develop their workforces. To help give them the clear picture they need, The Pew Charitable Trusts produced first-of-their-kind data on the likelihood of immigrant workers being employed in 13 major industries, compared with U.S.-born workers, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Pew’s online interactive tool builds on these data to compare the workforce distribution of immigrants relative to U.S.-born workers across all states and with national figures. Following are some key takeaways that can help guide exploration of the interactive and inform strategies for policymakers to make use of the data:
At the national level, immigrant workers are distributed differently across industries than their U.S.-born counterparts. Immigrants are more likely than U.S.-born workers to hold jobs in six of the 13 major industries examined, including manufacturing and administrative services.
The distribution of immigrants across industries differs from state to state, but some trends are widespread throughout the states, and some industries display patterns of regional clustering. For example, immigrants are more likely than U.S.-born workers to be employed in construction in the Southern states.
Immigrants are less likely than the U.S.-born to be employed in seven industries at the national level, but they may be more likely to work in one or more of those sectors in individual states. For example, immigrants nationwide are less likely than U.S.-born workers to be employed in education services and professional, scientific, technical, and management services, but in several states, immigrants are more likely to work in those sectors.
The distribution of immigrant and U.S.-born workers across industries can differ, regardless of the size of a state’s immigrant population. In Montana, a state with a small foreign-born population, immigrants are more likely than the U.S.-born to work in five sectors, including education services; health care and social services; leisure and hospitality; manufacturing; and professional, scientific, technical, and management services. In California, which has a large immigrant population, foreign-born workers have a greater likelihood of being employed in six sectors compared with U.S.-born workers, including two—leisure and hospitality and manufacturing—that are also observed in Montana.
These data—particularly when considered in the context of information about employment, gross domestic product, and nationwide demographic changes and factors that distinguish immigrants and U.S.-born workers—can be used to inform decisions on policies and investments designed to spur economic growth amid a changing workforce. Such choices include whether to provide workers with skills-based training; set standards for occupational credentials; provide language classes for nonnative English speakers; and mandate the use of the federal online employment eligibility verification system known as E-Verify.