New Estimates On Unauthorized Immigrant Workforce

By Kate Sheehy
March 26, 2015

TUCSON, Ariz. - The unauthorized immigrant workforce in the U.S. has remained relatively stable since the Great Recession began in 2007 to 2012, but there have been shifts in employment, according to new research. The data reveals the impact on industries in Arizona.  

Pew Research Center estimates show that unauthorized immigrants hold more professional positions and fewer blue collar jobs than before the recession. 

Kate Sheehy
Farm workers in Yuma, AZ harvesting and packing iceberg lettuce for Dole.

Still, in most states, including Arizona, they make up the highest share of the workforce in farming. KJZZ spoke with farmer Matt McGuire in Yuma in January about the decline in its primarily Mexican workforce. 

“That’s part of the reason why more mechanization has been done, because the labor pool is not as big as it was and as the economy gets better there will be tremendous demand from other industries taking this labor,” McGuire said.

He said in years past, the construction industry has taken people away from farm work.

Pew data shows that in Arizona, and nationally, construction has a large representation of unauthorized immigrants, although their share in this industry has dropped. 

Other research from Pew explains Arizona is one of 14 states where the unauthorized immigrant population has declined. This is due to the declining number of people coming to the state from Mexico. Unauthorized immigrants account for 6 percent of the total labor force in Arizona which is higher than the national share of 5.1 percent.