The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released data confirming what employers already know through experience. In April 2018, there were 6.7 million job openings nationwide, but only 6.1 million unemployed. This dramatic 600,000 gap between available workers and job openings bears out December 2015 BLS projections that from 2014-2024, the economy would grow by 9.8 million jobs, while due to workers aging out of the workforce and declining birthrates, labor pool growth would fall far short of the need, at 7.9 million workers.
It couldn’t be more obvious. The U.S. cannot produce enough workers domestically even in the long term unless birthrates turn around radically, and instead, they are dropping. Our only realistic way to increase our labor supply is through immigration. Yet this Administration’s policies are resulting in fewer, not more immigrants or temporary visa holders (who may become our future workers) arriving or remaining in the U.S.
To recap just some of the Administration’s actions or policies since January 2017 that MeBIC has highlighted previously and their labor force impact:
- The rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program: over 700,000 young adults at the beginning of their working trajectory facing ejection from the workforce;
- The decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for:
- El Salvador: 195,000 will soon be lost from the workforce
- Honduras: 57,000 will soon be lost from the workforce
- Haiti: 46,000 will soon be lost from the workforce
- Nepal: 9000 will soon be lost from the workforce
- Nicaragua: 2500 will soon be lost from the workforce
- Sudan: 1000 will soon be lost from the workforce
- Decisions in both 2017 and 2018 to issue only up to 15,000 more H-2B seasonal work visas for the remainder of each fiscal year, when the number of positions for which employers requested H-2B visas exceeded the original 33,000 cap by tens of thousands;
- Executive orders and other actions that have reduced entry of refugees from 85,000 in FY 2016 to a projected 20,000 in FY 2018;
- Executive orders that have led to a steep decline in Muslim immigrants and nonimmigrants to the U.S., including professional temporary workers, or international students who often become our future professional workers;
- Planned rescission of the International Entrepreneur Rule preventing certain entrepreneurs from staying in the U.S. to establish new ventures here that would stimulate the economy;
- Planned rescission of the H-4 work rule that would strip work permits from as many as 100,000 spouses already in the U.S. legally awaiting their permanent residency;
- Rhetoric and policies that may be a prime factor in a decline in the number of international graduate students, including in STEM fields, who typically would join the U.S. workforce upon graduation.
While it is too soon to quantify precisely the number of lost current or future workers resulting from some of the changes noted above, just the Administration’s decisions to rescind DACA and end TPS alone will strip the ability to work legally from over 1,000,000 individuals who are already part of our communities, exacerbating the growing U.S. labor force shortage.
Some in Congress wholeheartedly support this Administration’s harsh immigration actions, and support proposals to roll back both employment-based and immediate family immigration, at a time when our country needs more, not fewer people.
Without a 180 degree turn to become more welcoming both to immigrants already in the U.S. and to those who might want to come here from abroad, it’s hard to see how our economy can continue to grow.
National groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, MeBIC partner New American Economy, the Visit U.S. Coalition, and FWD.us, to name only a few, are working hard to push back against this Administration’s destructive immigration policies. It’s incumbent on Maine’s business community to join them in relentlessly calling on Congress and the Administration to adopt policies and laws that will retain both immigrants who are already here but lack full resident status, and attract those still abroad.
Contact MeBIC if your Maine-based business wants to get involved.