The official unemployment rate is extremely low right now, but it is a misleading statistic because it includes part-time and temporary workers, along with those who have stopped looking. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also publishes data on the employment rate, which tells a different story.

The employment rate measures the percentage of the working age population that is employed. It peaked at 65 percent right around the turn of the millennium, plunged drastically during the Great Recession, and has crept back up to about 61 percent today.

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That 4 percent difference represents millions of people who could be working but aren’t. We desperately need more new jobs, yet we are pursuing immigration policies that will make the situation even worse.

Fact One: Our Country is Experiencing a Prolonged Decline in the Rate of Entrepreneurship.

In the 1970s, 15 percent of all companies in the country were less than one year old. By 2015, only 8 percent were. In the years of the Great Recession of 2007, new business “deaths” began to outpace new business “starts” for the first time since the data began to be collected in the 1970s.  Despite the several years of modest growth that followed the recession, that trend has not reversed. Most economists believe the decline in new business starts is a contributing factor to the slowdown in productivity that has plagued our economy of late and helped to depress wage gains. The trend away from entrepreneurship began in old-line sectors like retail, but has now spread throughout the economy, including the high-tech sector. And the trend has continued even though the number of Americans aged 25-55 (the most fruitful years for entrepreneurship) has been growing.

Fact Two: New Businesses Create Virtually All Net New Jobs

According to the Kauffman Foundation, businesses less than one year old are the only category of businesses (grouped by age) that contributed net new jobs to the economy between 1992 and 2006.

Fact Three:  Millennials Are Not Rising to the Entrepreneurship Challenge

Prior to the Great Recession, Millennials were already less likely than their Baby Boomer and Generation X predecessors to start businesses. Since the recession, their rate of entrepreneurship has plummeted further. The reasons for this range from generalized economic anxiety following the recession, lower rates of homeownership (home equity being a traditional source of capital for entrepreneurs), crushing student loan burdens, and other factors we may not yet understand.

Fact Four: Immigrants are Very Entrepreneurial

According to the Harvard Business Review, immigrants are twice as likely to start businesses than U.S. born people. I, yet immigrants make up only 13 percent of the population. Forty-three percent of Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or their children. Immigrants with a college degree are three times more likely to file patents than native born college grads. Possible explanations for the higher rate of entrepreneurship among immigrants, include:

  • Selection: It takes hustle and drive to make it in a new country, the same qualities that can lead to success for an entrepreneur.
  • Discrimination: Immigrants often face barriers to being hired, so they naturally turn to self-employment.
  • Cross Cultural Experience: It is believed that moving between cultures stimulates creativity, which can lead to entrepreneurial ideas. There is also a concept of “knowledge arbitrage.”  Immigrant entrepreneurs often bring ideas and business models from their place of birth, that haven’t been tried yet here.

Given our entrepreneurship crisis, it would seem to make sense for the U.S. to encourage more immigrants to settle here and start businesses. Yet, until recently, we remained one of the few industrialized countries that didn’t have a welcoming visa category for foreign-born entrepreneurs. The Obama administration approved a “Startup Visa” in its waning days, but the current administration has delayed its implementation and threatened to end it. So far, only 10 people have applied and none have been approved.

We have the world’s largest international student population, with over 1 million foreign-born students attending our colleges, universities and graduate programs. Many would like to stay here after graduation to work or start businesses, but the vast majority are not eligible for a green card. And we are making it harder and harder for foreign workers to get H1B visas, which is often the first step towards starting a company in the U.S.

Productivity and innovation, and new job creation in the U.S. will continue to stagnate if we can’t do something to reinvigorate entrepreneurship. The politics of fear have convinced many that immigrants are a threat to our prosperity. In fact, we should be welcoming them with open arms.

Eric Weaver is the Founder of, and a Senior Advisor to Opportunity Fund, a California-based community development financial institution that focuses on lending to entrepreneurs who are left out of the financial mainstream, including immigrants. Opportunity Fund has the largest portfolio of micro-business loans under management among nonprofit lenders in the nation.