Undocumented workers were more likely to have white-collar jobs in 2012 than they did before the Great Recession, a new study from the Pew Research Center reveals.
Shifts in skill level
The analysis, released Thursday, found that the share of all undocumented immigrant workers with management and professional jobs grew to 13 percent in 2012 – up 3 percentage points from 2007. Meanwhile, the percent of working immigrants with construction or production jobs — like plant operators, assemblers and food processors — dropped from 34 percent to 29 percent.
Despite those shifts, workers living in the U.S. illegally still fill many of the country’s lower-skill jobs.
The growth in white-collar work mirrors a trend seen in the overall U.S. economy, Pew found.
Where undocumented immigrants work
Unsurprisingly, the study also found that undocumented immigrants working in Nevada and other states in the West are most likely to have jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry.
In Nevada, which has the highest share of undocumented immigrants in the labor force, nearly 40 percent of undocumented workers were in the hospitality industry in 2012. About 14 percent were in the construction and business services industries. Workers in the business services industry typically perform duties such as cleaning offices, providing security and managing personnel.
Impact on the labor force
Despite seeing gains in white-collar work, undocumented immigrants are still much more likely to have jobs in lower-skilled jobs. In 2012, 62 percent held service, construction and production jobs — twice the percentage of U.S.-born workers who did. And the 13 percent share of undocumented workers with management or professional jobs is less than half of the 36 percent of U.S.-born workers with those occupations.
Undocumented immigrants, for example, are vastly overrepresented in Nevada’s construction and agriculture industries. They make up 21 percent of all of the state’s construction labor force, and 17 percent of its agriculture job holders.
Overall, the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. didn’t change much between 2007 and 2012.