NFIB: Not Enough Workers for Available Jobs

The National Federation of Independent Business issued a report  on May 7, 2021 noting that April was the third straight month of record unfilled job openings in small businesses.

A “record 44% of all small business owners report having job openings they could not fill, 22 points higher than the 48-year historical average, and two points higher than the 42% figure from March.”

The report also states:

  • Eight percent of owners cited labor costs as their top business problem and 24% said that labor quality was their top business problem, the top overall concern.
  • Firms increased employment by 0.31 workers per firm on average over the past few months. Thirty-seven percent have openings for skilled workers and 20% have openings for unskilled labor.
  • Forty-four percent of the job openings in construction are for skilled workers, up four points from last month. Fifty-eight percent of construction firms reported few or no qualified applicants.

The report is yet another argument for Congress to reform and update the nation’s immigration laws so that the U.S. can remain a competitive economy and have vibrant communities.

U.S. Birthrates Decline, Again

In 2020, CDC data show that U.S. birthrates declined by 4%, to the lowest rate since 1979.   The steepest decline was 7% in December, the first month that babies would have been born after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.

The fertility rate also dropped 4% in 2020 to the lowest rate ever, and at 1,637.5 births per 1000 women, is far below the 2.1% fertility rate needed to maintain population “replacement levels.”

While that December 2020 birthrate drop may be a case of correlation, not causation, the lower number of births conforms with predictions by Brookings that U.S. births might fall by 300,000 in a year due to the  pandemic.

Coupled with the 2020 decennial Census data showing the second-slowest U.S. population growth rate in a decade since the Census began in 1790, it’s clear that if the U.S. is to have a robust workforce to meet the country’s economic needs as more Baby Boomers retire, the U.S. urgently needs to grow its immigrant population.

Congress must act this year to update the nation’s immigration laws to open to tap and allow immigrants already here to legalize, and to speed up and expand immediate yfamily and employment based immigration.

Administration Will Increase Refugee Admissions Cap for FY 2021

After flip-flopping in April, the Biden administration announced on May 3, 2021 that it will carry out its earlier promise, and raise the refugee resettlement cap for FY 2021 to 62,500 refugees.

The Trump administration had set the cap on refugee admissions to the U.S. for FY 2021 at 15,000, the lowest cap since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980.

President Biden stated repeatedly while campaigning that he would raise the refugee resettlement cap to 125,000 per year, the highest level since the Clinton administration.  Soon after his inauguration, the President said that he would raise the cap for the remainder of the current fiscal year to 62,500 from President Trump’s 15,000.

After delays and some back and forth, Biden appears ready to make good on his promise of resettling 62,500 refugees before September 30, 2021.

This will be welcome news to the refugees who have been extensively vetted and were just waiting for the final nod to travel to the U.S., and also for the communities that will welcome them.

This is also good news for Maine, which received no refugees at all during the first 6 months of the fiscal year .   For decades, refugees have been a consistent source of in-migration to Maine, but refugee resettlement in the state dwindled to a trickle during the prior administration, even before the pandemic.  The Biden administration’s new number for the rest of FY 2021, coupled with the promised 125,000 refugees in future fiscal years, bodes well for an influx of refugees to Maine to help strengthen our communities and workforce.