E.g., 10/03/2014
E.g., 10/03/2014

Mexican Immigrants in the U.S. Labor Force

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Mexican Immigrants in the U.S. Labor Force

The number of Mexican immigrants in the United States labor force nearly doubled between 1990 and 2000, increasing from 2.6 million to 4.9 million, according to the results of Census 2000. By 2000, almost four percent of the civilian labor force age 16 and over was born in Mexico, compared to just two percent in 1990. While still a relatively small percentage of the total labor force, Mexican immigrants are concentrated in certain industries and occupations. This Spotlight focuses on the patterns of labor force participation by Mexican immigrants living and working in the United States. All of the data presented in this Spotlight are derived from the U.S. Census Bureau's Census 2000 Public Use Micro-Sample (PUMS) five percent file. The information refers to workers in the civilian labor force age 16 and over, unless otherwise noted.

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In This Spotlight
Three kinds of information about labor force experiences of foreign-born and native workers are presented here. First, labor force participation characteristics, such as unemployment rates, are examined. Next the kinds of occupations, such as sales and services, are presented. The Spotlight concludes by briefly describing the kinds of industries in which particular groups are employed. The distinction between occupation and industry of employment is important. Occupation describes the kind of work performed, while the industry indicates the sector of the economy in which a worker is employed. For instance, an individual who is an office worker may be employed in the manufacturing sector.

Labor Force Participation as of Census 2000

Of all Mexican foreign born age 16 and over, 60 percent were in the labor force.

Of the 8.1 million Mexican foreign born age 16 and over, 4.9 million or 60 percent were in the labor force. This includes both employed and unemployed workers. The labor force participation rate for the native population (64 percent) was slightly higher than that for Mexican immigrants, while the rate for the total foreign-born population (60 percent) was the same.

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Mexican immigrants made up less than four percent of the total U.S. labor force.

Of the 137.7 million people in the labor force, including both employed and unemployed workers, Mexican immigrants accounted for 4.9 million or 3.5 percent of the total. The total foreign-born population was 18 million or 13 percent of the total labor force.

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Over one in every four foreign-born workers in the U.S. was from Mexico.

Of the 18 million foreign-born workers in the labor force, including both employed and unemployed workers, 4.9 million or 27 percent were born in Mexico.

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Almost one out of every 11 Mexican immigrants in the labor force was unemployed.

Of the total 4.9 million Mexican immigrant workers in the labor force, 0.5 million or 9.4 percent were unemployed. The unemployment rate for Mexican immigrant workers was considerably higher than the unemployment rate for the nation as a whole (5.8 percent), for native workers (5.6 percent), and for the total foreign-born population (6.9 percent). (See Graph 1.)

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Occupation

Over half of all employed Mexican immigrants worked in just two occupations.

Of the 4.4 million employed Mexican immigrants, 1.3 million or 29 percent worked in production, transportation, and material moving occupations, while 1.1 million or 25 percent worked in service occupations. Combined, these two occupation groups accounted for 54 percent of all employed Mexican immigrants. An additional 0.7 million or 15 percent worked in construction and extraction occupations, 0.5 million or 12 percent worked in sales and office occupations, and 0.3 million or 8 percent worked in management, professional, and related occupations. (See Graph 2.)

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Compared with employed Mexican immigrants, a higher proportion of all employed foreign-born workers were in management, professional, and related occupations.

For the 16.7 million employed foreign born, the most common occupation categories were management, professional, and related occupations (4.7 million or 28 percent), sales and office occupations (3.4 million or 20 percent), service occupations (3.3 million or 20 percent), and production, transportation, and material moving occupations (3.2 million or 19 percent). Only 1.2 million or 7.1 percent of all foreign born worked in construction and extraction occupations. (See Graph 2.)

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Compared with both employed Mexican and foreign-born workers, employed native workers were more concentrated in management, professional, and related occupations.

Of the 113 million employed natives, 38.9 million or 34 percent worked in management, professional, and related occupations, followed by 31.3 million or 28 percent in sales and office occupations. Combined, these two occupation groups accounted for 60 percent of all employed native workers. An additional 15.9 million or 14 percent worked in service occupations, 15.8 million or 14 percent in production, transportation, and material moving occupations, and 6 million or 5.3 percent in construction and extraction occupations. (See Graph 2.)

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Almost one in every three employed workers in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations was from Mexico.

Of the approximately one million employed workers in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations, 0.3 million or 30 percent were from Mexico. Overall, Mexican immigrant workers made up 3.4 percent of the total employed labor force. In three additional occupations, immigrants from Mexico made up more than 3.4 percent of the total employed labor force: construction and extraction (9.2 percent), production, transportation, and material moving (6.7 percent), and service (5.8 percent).

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Industry

Approximately one in every five employed Mexican immigrants worked in the manufacturing industry.

Of the 4.4 million employed Mexican immigrants, 0.9 million or 21 percent worked in manufacturing. An additional 0.7 million or 15 percent worked in construction, followed by 0.6 million or 13 percent in accommodation and food services, 0.4 million or 9.1 percent in professional, scientific, management, administrative, and waste services, 0.3 million or 7.8 percent in retail trade, and 0.3 million or 7.4 percent in education, health, and social services.

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Compared with employed Mexican immigrants, foreign-born workers in general were more likely to work in the educational, health, and social services industries.

For the 16.7 million employed foreign born, the most common industries were manufacturing (2.8 million or 17 percent) and educational, health, and social services industries (2.8 million or 16 percent). An additional 1.7 million or 10 percent worked in professional, scientific, management, administrative, and waste management services, 1.7 million or 10 percent in retail trade, 1.6 million or 9.5 percent in accommodation and food services, and 1.3 million or 7.8 percent in construction.

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Compared with both employed Mexican and foreign-born workers, native workers were more likely to be in the educational, health, and social services industries.

Of the 113 million employed native workers in the labor force, 23.1 million or 20 percent worked in the educational, health, and social services industries. An additional 15.4 million or 14 percent worked in manufacturing, 13.5 million or 12 percent in retail trade, 10.3 million or 9.2 percent in professional, scientific, management, administrative and waste management services, 7.5 million or 6.6 percent in construction, and 6.3 million or 5.7 percent in accommodation and food services.

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Almost one in every eight employed workers in the agricultural, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry was from Mexico.

Mexican immigrant workers represented 3.4 percent of the 130 million people in the employed labor force. However, the employed foreign born from Mexico had a higher representation in five industries: agricultural, forestry, fishing, and hunting (13 percent), construction (7.7 percent), accommodation and food services (7 percent), manufacturing (5.2 percent), and wholesale trade (4.5 percent).