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Immigrant unemployment rate same as American-born workers

May 24, 2013: 7:42 AM ET

The unemployment rate of immigrants fell to 8.1% in 2012, the same as the jobless level for people born in America. This marks the first time in several years that immigrants have not had a higher jobless rate.

As Congress debates immigration reform, the work experiences of those born outside this country grow in importance.

Still, the overall unemployment rate of immigrants masks differences between the races. Foreign-born whites, for instance, have a higher unemployment rate than their native-born counterparts. (The unemployment rates for both white immigrants and white natives are still below the overall average though.) But other immigrant groups are less likely to be unemployed than their peers born in America.

chart-bls-unemployment

Immigrants, however, are more likely to be employed in lower-paying fields, such as service jobs, construction and maintenance. So their pay is lower than workers who were born here.

chart-bls-median-earnings

The vast majority of immigrant workers are Hispanic, followed by Asians, whites and blacks.

chart-bls-foreign-workforce

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