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Native and immigrant employment during the pandemic

As a part of the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, then-President Trump issued an executive order instituting a freeze on all new visas and preventing new immigrants from entering the United States. In the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in April and May of 2020, the unemployment rate in the United States was extremely high. The executive order, issued in April 2020, was designed to prevent immigrants from taking jobs from native-born workers.

The FRED graph above shows the relative change in the levels of foreign-born employment and native-born employment. Both series are indexed to January 2020, right before the pandemic seriously affected the U.S. labor market. Both series sharply dropped in April 2020 before slowly increasing to their pre-pandemic levels.

The foreign-born employment index dropped more relative to its January 2020 level and was faster to recover. Foreign-born employment returned to its January 2020 level in October 2021, while native-born employment did not recover until March 2022. Given the tightness of the U.S. labor market, the increase in foreign-born employment could help relieve some of the pressure in the economy. While native employment has continued at its pre-pandemic level  despite a tight labor market, foreign-born employment has continued to rise and as of November 2022 is 5% over its pre-pandemic level.

How this graph was created: Search for “Foreign Born” in FRED and select “Employment Level – Foreign Born.” Click the orange “Edit Graph” button on the right: From the “Add Line” tab, type “Native Born” in the search bar, select “Employment Level – Native Born,” and click “Add data series.” From the “Edit Line 2” tab, change the units to “Index (Scale value to 100 for chosen date)” and make the date that equals 100 “2020-01-01.” Then select “Copy to all” to copy these units to all lines. Finally, change the beginning date of the graph to 2018-01-01.

Suggested by Maggie Isaacson and Hannah Rubinton.

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