Rick Perry has made his record of job creation as governor of Texas the centerpiece of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. But a new study is drawing attention to a side of the Lone Star State’s recent jobs boom that Perry might not be so quick to tout.
At the heart of Perry’s pitch to voters has been Texas’s jobs performance since the start of the Great Recession, which began in late 2007. During that time, the state has added around 300,000 jobs, while the United States as a whole has lost more than 7 million.
The governor’s critics have pointed out that much of the job growth is the result of simple population growth–both through immigration and through native-born Americans relocating to Texas from other states. Perry has said that only shows that his low-tax, light-regulation policies are making Texas an attractive place to live and work.
But a new study by the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based group that advocates for lower immigration rates, could be more difficult for Perry to dismiss. It finds that by far the prime beneficiaries of the boom have been immigrants–both legal and illegal–from other countries.
The key stat? From the middle of 2007, shortly before the recession began, until the middle of this year, Texas added 279,000 jobs. Of those, 225,00 or 81 percent, went to immigrants who arrived in the United States in 2007 or later.
Other important numbers from the study, which is based on Census Bureau data:
• Around half of the newly-arrived immigrants were illegal. So around 40 percent of Texas’s job growth benefited illegal immigrants, and around 40 percent benefited legal immigrants.
• New jobs went overwhelmingly to immigrants even though native-born Americans accounted for 69 percent of the growth in Texas’s working-age population.
• The percentage of working-age natives who held a job fell from 71 percent to 67 percent during the 2007-2011 period. That’s a similar decline to the employment situation in the United States overall during that period.
• 93 percent of the newly-arrived immigrants who took a job in Texas during that time were not American citizens. So more than three quarters of the state’s job growth benefited non-citizens.
What does all this mean?
For one thing, it means that if you think about the population of Texas as it was four years ago, it’s fared just about as well–or as badly, we should say–as the rest of the country. As David Frum, a former speechwriter in the Bush White House who lately has been critical of the Republican Party, puts it, “There was no Texas miracle, from the point of view of the people who constituted the population of Texas back in 2007.”
It also suggests that Perry’s relatively liberal approach on immigration has been a crucial piece of his apparent success on jobs. Frum writes, “A permissive immigration [policy] is the indispensable prerequisite to the no-soup-for-you economy over which Perry presided.”
As a result the study could provide fodder for Perry’s rivals for the Republican nomination, who may use it both to argue that Perry’s record on jobs is less impressive than it sounds, and to attack his permissive approach to immigration from the right.
The study is hardly the only piece of evidence that could undercut Perry’s claims of success as a job creator. As The Lookout reported last month, other government figures show that most of the new jobs created in Texas in the last two years are in government, the low-wage service sector, or the energy sector, which has benefited from rising oil prices. And as the New York Times notes today, Texas’s unemployment rate–which is calculated differently from the total number of jobs created–has spiked lately from 7.7 percent in June 2009 to 8.5 percent today, even as the national rate has edged downward.