Skip to main content
Blog Post

The Political Landmines Buried in the Latest Jobs Report


April 10, 2024

CNN on Friday dubbed the latest monthly jobs report a “blowout,” pointing to 303,000 net new jobs created in March. President Joe Biden immediately claimed credit, saying the report “marks a milestone in America’s comeback,” as it indicates a total of “15 million jobs created since I took office.” Meanwhile, the latest data confirm that most of the “jobs created” during the Biden administration (that is, some 9.4 million) reflect simply the return of jobs lost early in the pandemic.

A strong jobs report is always welcome news. But behind the positive headlines, key data points in the latest report spotlight potential political landmines ahead for the president if recent trends continue. Those data indicate that, in the past year, employment by US natives is down, unemployment among Black or African American individuals is up, and full-time employment has fallen.

Employment by US natives is down

While up last month, as displayed below, in the past 12 months employment among US natives is down by 651,000. Those declines were focused on men, a group President Biden already has increasing difficulties winning over.

In contrast, employment among foreign-born individuals grew by 1,266,000 in the past year, driven by the rapidly growing population of foreign-born individuals ages 16 and over in the US, which rose by almost 2.6 million during the past year.

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data are not seasonally adjusted.

The gap between US native and foreign-born employment is even starker since last summer. Since its peak in July 2023, employment of US natives has fallen by over 2.0 million, while employment of the foreign-born has risen by almost 1.4 million. The aging of the US workforce surely contributes. But it’s easy to imagine many native men—and those seeking their votes—blaming the administration’s failed border policies if recent employment declines continue.

Unemployment among Black or African American individuals is up

The arrival of large numbers of migrants has contributed to growing tensions in cities like ChicagoNew YorkBoston, and beyond. Rising unemployment among Black or African American individuals, whose continued loyalty the president needs, will do nothing to calm those concerns. Friday’s jobs report reveals that unemployment among Black or African American individuals rose in March for the third consecutive month, to over 1.4 million, the highest level since January 2022. That group’s unemployment rate has risen from 5.1 percent to 6.4 percent in the past year.

Full-time employment is down

Last month, full-time employment fell by 6,000 while part-time employment rose by 691,000. Full time employment has fallen in each of the last four months and is down by over 1.3 million since March 2023. In contrast, part-time employment has risen in each of the last five months and is now 1.9 million above the March 2023 level.

These data continue longer-term trends. Since pre-pandemic employment peaked in December 2019, part time employment has grown more in absolute terms (by 1.6 million) than full-time employment, which is up by 1.3 million. In percentage terms, part-time employment has grown six times as fast as full-time employment during that period (rising by 5.99 percent versus 0.96 percent, respectively). As James Piereson recently noted, one explanation for the public’s continued frustration with the economy is the fact that “… [t]he labor market’s success has been fueled mostly by part-time-job growth, rather than by the addition of full-time jobs.” 

These data all come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s household survey, not the payroll survey that provides the headline jobs figures. But they reflect how those headline jobs figures mask potential political landmines for the president if recent trends continue. Maybe recent declines in employment among US natives or increases in unemployment among Black or African American individuals will turn around in the months ahead. But if they don’t, no amount of presidential jawboning about achieving artificial administration “milestones” will convince skeptics in key voting blocks of the labor market’s strength.