ON MIGRATION | Impact of Covid job losses on immigrant workers

August 20, 2020

New American Economy is updating their Immigrants and COVID-19 Portal every week with the latest data showing how workforce needs are changing and how immigrants are critical to the fight, response, and recovery that we face in the coming months. This week, they take a look at the latest employment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to understand how immigrants are impacted.

Here’s what we found this week:

Despite recent job gains, the latest employment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the hospitality industry remains the most severely hit among all industry sectors during the pandemic, with more than 3.4 million jobs lost between February and July. As a significant share of the hospitality workforce, immigrants are among the most negatively impacted.

  • The food service sector, where 1 in 5 workers are immigrants, cut 2.6 million jobs between the end of February and the end of July 2020 — more than 20% of all job cuts at that time across the country.
  • The hotel and accommodation industry, where 1 in 3 workers are immigrants, cut 801,600 jobs in that same time period.
  • Accounting for more than one-fourth of all job losses, the accommodation and food service sectors combined cut 3.4 million jobs.

Two other industries hit hard by the downturn were professional services and healthcare and social assistance. In just five months, the professional services industry, including services ranging from legal, accounting, to business support, cut 1.7 million jobs and the healthcare and social assistance sector lost 1.3 million jobs.

  • Immigrants made up significant shares of workers in these industries: 1 in 5 workers in professional services and 1 in 6 workers in healthcare and social assistance.
    Job losses in these industries could have a significant impact on consumer spending and tax revenue.
  • Nationwide, immigrant workers in the leisure and hospitality sector earn more than $83.6 billion annually ($68.7 billion in the hospitality industry alone).
  • Those working in professional services earn $228.1 billion annually, while those in healthcare and social assistance earn $211 billion.

As many immigrants have been left out of federal assistance programs and may be ineligible for unemployment benefits, the loss of wages and the corresponding loss in economic activity that would have been attributed to these workers and their families is significant, especially for cities and towns with large immigrant communities.

State and local governments have worked quickly to fill this gap with alternative unemployment relief funds. California paved the way as the first state to offer aid to undocumented workers through the creation of its Disaster Relief Assistance Fund which provided $125 million in financial support to 150,000 undocumented adults impacted by COVID-19. Several other states, including Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Washington, and localities such as Anne Arundel County (MD), Dallas (TX), and Iowa City (IA) have since launched their own cash assistance programs. You can learn more about these programs and more in NAE’s COVID-19 Policy Response Guide.

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