As the labor shortage worsens, why not bring in more immigrants?


The United States had more than 9.2 million job postings in May, the highest monthly number on record, and many employers are complaining about the difficulty in finding candidates.

So why don’t we increase immigration to alleviate the labor shortage?

Foreign-born workers have played a pivotal role in Texas‘ rapid growth for decades, keeping great jobs running. In May, they made up nearly 23% of non-farm workers in Texas, nearly 6 percentage points above the national share.

They are more highly concentrated in certain sectors, including manufacturing and hotels and restaurants. These fields have also seen the biggest digital increase in job postings since the pandemic.

Together, hotels, restaurants and manufacturers had more than 2 million openings in May, up 853,000 since February 2020. Immigrants already occupy a disproportionate share of jobs in these industries, and a local restaurateur says that ‘they are needed to recruit and do business. grow again.

“We are having enormous difficulty recruiting people and the younger generation are not applying for our jobs,” said Jim Baron, CEO and co-owner of Blue Mesa Grill and TNT / Tacos and Tequila.

It has around 170 employees and wants to hire 25 more. He increased pay rates by about 25%, he said, and many competitors closed, but workers did not return in large numbers. He cited the hard work required and the sense of betrayal of employees in the face of layoffs at the start of the pandemic.

“If we want to fill all of these jobs in restaurants, hotels, construction, landscaping – then immigration is the solution,” said Baron, who estimates half of his workers were born out of states. -United.

Economists often cite the labor market mismatch, referring to the gaps between the skills of job seekers and the skills sought by employers. While the United States had 9.2 million job openings in May, it also had 9.3 million unemployed people that month.

Foreign-born workers can fill these gaps – and help businesses grow and create more jobs for native-born residents.

“Immigrants are much more likely to have different skills, both on the top and the bottom of the ladder,” said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of New American Economy, a bipartisan research and advocacy group fighting to make immigration policies conducive to economic growth.

In 2019, Dallas-Fort Worth had nearly 1.5 million immigrants, or just over 19% of the population, according to the group. research that maps impact. Almost a third have less than a high school diploma compared to 7% of natives, making them more likely to take jobs that require less education.

This includes roles in groceries, transportation, cooking and cleaning, Robbins said.

But 14.4% of foreign-born residents in North Texas have a graduate degree, a higher share than the native population, the group said. Most of them have degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math, the so-called STEM fields.

In Texas, 59% of medical scientists were foreign-born, according to 2014-2016 data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Among software manufacturers, the share was 45%. And a third of Texas engineers and physicians were foreign born.

Immigrants played a major role in the development of COVID-19 vaccines, both in the United States and in Germany. The researcher who led Operation Warp Speed ​​in the United States is also an immigrant, born in Morocco.

In addition, 84% of immigrants to D-FW are between 16 and 64 years of age, the peak working age. That’s 23 percentage points more than the share of native-borns in this age group and one more reason they are attractive to employers.

“Immigrants are more likely to move for a job and they are more likely to work irregular hours, such as nights and weekends,” Robbins said. “And each of those 9.2 million jobs we can fill helps our economy run better and increase our chances of creating the jobs people want.”

Pia orrenius, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, has focused much of his research on the two extremes of the immigrant workforce. The greatest need, she said, is for immigrants at the bottom of the school ladder and at the top.

“The demand continued to grow at the bottom, but at the same time, this indigenous workforce has shrunk in absolute size – not just in share, but in actual number,” Orrenius said.

More and more Americans are graduating from high school and college, which is a big achievement, and most are unwilling to do manual labor. More and more young people want internships or educational activities rather than summer jobs in amusement parks or restaurants.

Among nationally-born college graduates, too few specialize in STEM fields, especially healthcare, she said.

“This is where immigration really fills that excess demand,” Orrenius said. “The pandemic has not changed these two scenarios. “

The share of immigrants in the labor force has stabilized and fell last year during the pandemic. The number of foreign-born workers in June increased from last year, but was still lower than in 2019, 2018 and 2017.

Businesses have long called for comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for undocumented workers and an easier way for temporary workers to come to the United States

Utah business and political leaders on Wednesday urged their U.S. senators to support reform efforts. Unemployment is so low – 2.7% in May, less than half the U.S. rate – which Utah businesses are desperate for workers, they said.

Some major Republican donors are publicly complaining that lawmakers in Washington, DC are not making progress on immigration. Two threatened to suspend their financial support, according to Politico.

In Texas, more than 90 business leaders have signed a pact push legislators to act on immigration. They want permanent status for the “dreamers” – young immigrants brought to the United States as children – and those with temporary status, and are making broader reforms.

These sentiments contrast sharply with Gov. Greg Abbott calling for a border wall with Mexico and promising a $ 250 million down payment of taxpayer money.

Attorney General Ken Paxton has also stepped up the response. In A press release On Wednesday, he touted his latest trial, which aims to deport unauthorized immigrants at the border to protect public health. Paxton said he had sued the Biden administration 11 times since January with five of the immigration-related prosecutions.

It doesn’t sound too business friendly. There are many ways to address the labor shortage in the United States, including raising wages, increasing education, retraining workers, and encouraging people to reverse the declining birth rate. in the country.

“We have to do all of these things, but it’s going to take time,” said Orrenius, the Dallas Fed economist. “To get the workers we need where we need them – and in the fastest possible way – there is no comparison to immigration. “

Since 2000, immigrants have accounted for 40 percent of job growth in Texas, helping to fuel a strong economy.
The economic recovery continued in May as Texas created more than 34,000 jobs and recorded a slight drop in the unemployment rate.  But the construction industry lost 3,100 jobs statewide, even as residents demanded new homes.

About James Almanza

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