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Wells Fargo: 2 key ways immigrant workers help US job-seekers

People wait in line to attend TechFair LA, a technology job fair, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. on January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

Do immigrants take jobs away from American citizens? That question is at the heart of a debate over immigration that has intensified since the election of President Donald Trump.

A new note from Wells Fargo’s (WFC) John E. Silvia and other economists contends that, on the whole, immigration has not hurt job prospects for US citizens. In fact, the opposite phenomenon may actually be true, the economists argue.

“Rather than pushing out U.S.-born workers,” the note stated, “foreign-born workers increase the total number of jobs in the economy by raising the labor supply and supporting the expansion of US companies.”

The new Wells Fargo note comes as Trump tries to make good on campaign promises to reduce illegal immigration and construct a wall along the border of Mexico. Trump has also pledged to bring jobs back to America. If this note’s analysis is correct, then Trump’s anti-immigration efforts may run counter to his goal of putting Americans to work.

While foreign-born workers have a higher labor participation rate than US-born workers, the Wells Fargo economists say that immigrants often compete for different jobs. That’s because those from overseas tend to gravitate towards high- and low-skilled jobs. Within certain industries, immigrants often hold jobs requiring physical labor while native-born workers are managers.

Meanwhile, higher-skilled immigrants often work in computer and math professions, according to the Wells Fargo note. “New legislation that limits foreign-born workers could pose a threat to the labor supply in these specific industries,” the note stated.

The Wells Fargo economists are not the first to find that immigrants do not necessarily take Americans’ jobs. A 550-page report that came out September from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine came to a similar conclusion.

“The prospects for long-run economic growth in the United States would be considerably dimmed without the contributions of high-skilled immigrants,” the report noted.

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