Employment: Immigrant workers comprise a large share of California’s workforce.

Insights and Analyses

  • While a majority of immigrants are part of the state’s official labor force, some immigrants may not be counted, as they work in the informal sector. Across California, in 2018, about 73% of immigrants were employed.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses and localities to close, impacting about 43% of California workers who are at high risk of unemployment. This unemployment burden is disproportionately impacting young adults, Latinos, and workers employed in restaurants, hotels, personal care, and janitorial jobs.
  • Immigrant women have also been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. As of August 2020, among all workers in the U.S., immigrant women had the highest rate of unemployment at about 12%.
  • Immigrants have a higher rate of entrepreneurship than their U.S.-born counterparts. Research on early-stage entrepreneurship shows that across the U.S., the rate of new entrepreneurs was higher among immigrants at 44%, as compared to the U.S-born population at 28% in 2019.
  • Research by the Harvard Business School estimates that between 1995 and 2008, 24% of entrepreneurs in California were immigrants.
  • New American Economy estimates that California led the nation with nearly 785,000 immigrant entrepreneurs in 2014.

La Luz Center, a grassroots organization for farmworkers in Sonoma County, provides and connects immigrant and farm laborer families with an array of support services including economic, legal, health, and emergency-aid services. 

The 2017 Tubbs fires devastated Napa and Sonoma Counties, places that are home to thousands of undocumented immigrant families who work in the local wine and farming economy. During the fires, many families could not afford to leave their homes and were left with no choice but to stay behind. Given these precarious circumstances, La Luz stepped in to help affected families by delivering hot meals, as many families were without power, and provided other emergency-aid services. Eventually as farm laborers returned to work, La Luz, along with other organizations, continued to inform field workers on health and safety measures and to distribute masks to help offset the air pollution. La Luz has been around for 30 years, and as executive director Juan Hernandez said in an interview in The Nation, “People trust us….They know that LL will be here tomorrow if they need it.” To read The Nation’s full article, “No Sanctuary in Fire-Stricken California’s Immigrant Communities,” click here. To find out more about La Luz Center’s work, click here.

Photo Credit: Cornerstone Cellars

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