Many Americans are down on the U.S. job market, since good jobs are still hard to find and a lot of people who do have jobs are earning less than they used to.
But America still seems like the promised land to many foreigners. A new study by job-search site Indeed finds that the United States is the top destination, by far, for people looking for jobs outside the country where they live. That’s partly because the labor market in many other countries is weaker than it is here, and also because certain pockets of the U.S. economy — technology, especially — are remarkably strong. Says Indeed economist Tara Sinclair, “The American Dream is alive and well in terms of people looking for jobs in the U.S.”
Indeed examined the online job-search patterns of people in 55 countries to figure out where, aside from their home market, they were interested in working. U.S. job postings attracted strong interest (defined as 2% or more of the total job seekers in the country of origin) among people in 46 out of 55 countries. Next up was the U.K., drawing strong interest from 27 countries, and Canada, drawing interest from 10.
Job seekers from India, Britain, Canada, the Philippines and Australia are most interested in getting work in the United States. Their job searches aren’t random. Indians looking for U.S. jobs are mostly interested in tech positions. Though job-seekers from other countries have broader interests, their hunts seem to be well-researched and effectively targeted. “They’re looking where the jobs are,” Sinclair says.
Naturally, just because foreigners are interested in working in the United States doesn’t mean they’ll get a job here. It’s not always easy to get a U.S. work visa, and there are caps on some types of visas, including the H-1B visas required for some tech and specialized workers. Several high-profile employers want Congress to raise these caps, allowing them to hire more skilled foreigners. But that issue tends to get conflated with the more controversial debate over illegal immigration, which has stalled its prospects.
Some Americans feel Washington should put strict limits on the number of foreigners allowed to work in the United States, especially in the midst of a weak economy with elevated unemployment. But “labor flows” between cities, states and countries are a vital mechanism for helping the economy rebalance itself, as workers go where the jobs are and leave places with declining opportunity. Strong global interest in working in the United States supports other data showing the U.S. economy, for all its problems, remains one of the most dynamic anywhere.
There are also a lot of people in the United States who are interested in working someplace else, which reflects the multidirectional flow of commerce in an increasingly globalized economy. The No. 1 country of interest for people in the United States is India. That most likely reveals that a lot of Indians in America for school or work want to return to their native land and cash in on a booming economy. That squares with India’s rise as a capitalist power and new opportunities to become prosperous or even get rich there. It also suggests a kind of reverse brain drain may be underway, with the United States losing bright, well-educated workers from overseas who came to America for the opportunity but now see greener pastures back home.
U.S. workers also show strong interest in getting a job in Japan, Canada and the U.K. Those flows probably reflect traditional interests in climbing the corporate ladder at companies with locations across the globe, plus a share of younger workers who want to work overseas for the adventure. Still, many Americans who show interest in working overseas never end up doing it. America must seem like a pretty cool place to them, too.
Rick Newman’s latest book is Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback To Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.