‘Expect additional long-term damage’: U.S. labor shortage exacerbated by immigration slowdown

“Immigration into America has slowed down tremendously, which may hurt the labor market and economic growth as the country tries to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new note from J.P. Morgan.

“Population slowdown threatens trend growth,” the Nov. 12 note stated, highlighting the fact that due to more aging boomers retiring from the workforce and 3 million fewer immigrants in the country, trend labor force growth is going to be limited at only 0.1% per year and risks hurting overall GDP growth.”

““Immigration is crucial to growing the labor force and for economic growth, particularly in the medium and long term,” Stuart Anderson, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, told Yahoo Finance.

Anderson added that the Trump administration’s policies greatly limited legal migration and the pandemic worsened the numbers overall, contributing to a shortage of available workers. “If similar policies were to resume in 2025, expect additional long-term damage to U.S. economic growth and the American labor market,” Anderson warned.

J.P. Morgan researchers noted that the Census Bureau estimated that the working age population (ages 16 to 64) peaked in 2019, and has been “falling for almost two years,””

These Asylum Seekers Are Losing Jobs Because Bureaucrats Won’t Do Theirs

“While the specific cases in [this] lawsuit are unfortunate, they point to broader systemic issues in the American immigration apparatus. As Reason’s Eric Boehm reported in September, “one of the major drivers of the immigration system’s mounting caseloads,” which involves “a backlog of nearly 7 million applications and petitions,” comes down to “the government’s own, recently beefed-up immigration bureaucracy.”

The Application for Employment Authorization—the document at the heart of these plaintiffs’ woes and USCIS’s processing issues—”was expanded from one page and 18 questions to seven pages and 61 questions,” writes Boehm. Immigration restrictionists often say that hopeful migrants should come here “the legal way,” but the legal way is becoming more and more difficult to navigate. Immigrants who are already here and employed legally are finding themselves unable to continue working.

Unfortunately, the plaintiffs’ struggle is a reminder that the byzantine legal immigration system doesn’t just harm the migrants tangled in red tape—it also harms the native-born Americans who could benefit from their skills and services in tough times.”

Hating work is having a moment

“Many had expected people to return to the workforce en masse after federal unemployment benefits expired in September. While that’s happened to some degree — the economy added more than half a million jobs last month — there are still many more Americans holding out, thanks to a variety of reasons, from savings to lack of child care to the ongoing risks of the pandemic.

Importantly, the pandemic — as well as government social safety nets like extended unemployment benefits — gave people the time, distance, and perspective to reevaluate the place of work in their lives.”

“There are still more than 4 million fewer people in the workforce than there would be if labor force participation were at pre-pandemic levels. There are 10.4 million open jobs and just 7.4 million unemployed, according to the latest data. Of course, many of these open jobs are bad: They have bad pay, dangerous working conditions, or just aren’t remote (remote positions on LinkedIn get 2.5 times more applications than non-remote, according to the company).

The result is a situation where many employers — especially those in industries with notoriously bad pay and conditions — are having difficulty finding and retaining workers. To counter it, they’re raising wages, offering better benefits, and even altering the nature of their work. Depending on their strength and duration, these various actions could have long-lasting impacts on the future of work for all Americans.”

“In September, a high of 4.4 million people quit their jobs, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which has been tracking this data since 2000. That’s 3 percent of all employment and follows a summer of record quit numbers. Quitting has been especially prevalent in lower-paying, lower-status jobs like those in leisure, hospitality, and retail.”

“In 2021, approval of labor unions grew to 68 percent of Americans, its highest rate in more than 50 years. This is happening as many American workers are attempting to unionize their workplaces. Recent unionization efforts include Starbucks, Amazon, and meal-kit delivery service HelloFresh. Last month was dubbed “Striketober,” as more than 100,000 workers across industries, including workers at John Deere and in film and TV crews, participated in various labor actions. This is one of the many worker trends bulwarked by social media, which is rampant with support for unions.”

Immigrants could fix the US labor shortage

“Companies across the United States can’t find enough employees. One immediate solution is simple: Bring in more foreign workers.

The US needs roughly 10 million people, including low-wage and high-skilled workers, to fill job openings nationwide — and only 8.4 million Americans are actively seeking work.

And despite job openings hitting historic highs in July and extended unemployment benefits ending in September, Americans aren’t returning to work, especially in low-wage industries. At the same time, workers are resigning in record numbers. And though consumer spending has surged this year, businesses don’t have the people to meet demand — to cope, some companies are raising their prices. Supply chain bottlenecks are even threatening to ruin Christmas.

When the economy is fragile, there’s an instinct to shut borders to protect American workers. And indeed, that’s what the US has done during the pandemic, practically bringing legal immigration to a halt and closing the southern border to migrants and asylum seekers. In a normal year, the US welcomes roughly 1 million immigrants, and roughly three-quarters of them end up participating in the labor force. In 2020, that number dropped to about 263,000.

Generally, economic research has shown that the arrival of low-wage foreign workers has little to no negative impact on native-born workers’ wages or employment. And under the current circumstances, welcoming more low-wage foreign workers could address acute labor shortages in certain industries, helping hard-hit areas of the country recover while staving off higher inflation.

The industries currently facing the worst labor shortages include construction; transportation and warehousing; accommodation and hospitality; and personal services businesses like salons, dry cleaners, repair services, and undertakers. All four industries had increases in job postings of more than 65 percent when comparing the months of May to July 2019 to the same time period in 2021, according to an analysis conducted for Vox by the pro-immigration New American Economy think tank. Immigrants make up at least 20 percent of the workforce in those industries.”

Service workers are getting paid more than ever. It’s not enough.

“Employers in almost every industry say they’re struggling to find workers, but the situation is especially severe in the leisure and hospitality sector. While workers in these industries are getting paid more than ever, it still doesn’t seem like enough. Bars, restaurants, and hotels across the country are posting signs advertising open jobs — or asking customers to be patient since they don’t have enough staff. In August, the latest available month for openings and turnover data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were a near-record 1.7 million open jobs in leisure and hospitality — 10 percent of all jobs in the sector — and a record of nearly a million people quitting.”

“when individual states rescinded their unemployment benefits this summer, it didn’t have a meaningful impact on the worker shortage in many industries, including leisure and hospitality. Data from September, when the benefits were cut on a federal level, show a similar story, suggesting there are reasons beyond financial keeping people from taking these jobs.”

Why everybody’s hiring but nobody’s getting hired

“Essentially anywhere you go in the United States right now, you’re going to encounter “help wanted” signs. But just because a bar or restaurant or gas station wants a worker doesn’t mean a worker wants to work for them. The millions of jobs available aren’t necessarily millions of jobs people want.

“A lot of what people are seeing are low-paying jobs with unpredictable or not-worker-friendly scheduling practices, that don’t come with benefits, don’t come with long-term stability,” Shelly Steward, director of the Future of Work Initiative at the Aspen Institute, told Recode. “And those are not the types of jobs that any worker is eager to take on.””

“Tim Brackney, president and COO of management consulting firm RGP, refers to the current situation as the “great mismatch.” That mismatch refers to a number of things, including desires, experience, and skills. And part of the reason is that the skills necessary for a given job are changing faster than ever, as companies more frequently adopt new software.”

The death of the job

“Once upon a time, there were good jobs.

These jobs paid people enough money to live on, even enough to support a family. They provided health insurance so people could go to a doctor if they got sick. They even came with pensions so that once you’d worked for a certain number of years, you could actually stop working. You could rest.

But there was a problem.

These jobs weren’t for everyone. They were mostly for white men, and mostly in certain places, like a factory or an office. For everyone else, there were jobs that paid less, with fewer benefits — or no benefits at all. And over time, there were more and more bad jobs and fewer and fewer good jobs, and even the good jobs started getting less good, and everyone was very tired, and there was not enough money.”

“The pandemic has made matters even worse. Millions of front-line workers risked their lives doing jobs that often offered them little more than poverty-level wages in return. Even for those able to work in the relative safety of their homes, the pandemic often sapped whatever joy, camaraderie, or fulfillment jobs had once offered — 40 percent of workers in one 2020 survey, the majority of them working remotely, reported experiencing burnout during the pandemic. The problem was only compounded for parents and others who took on new caregiving responsibilities, with mothers especially dealing with high levels of exhaustion and depression.

But the pandemic has also been a turning point for many workers, leading them to reevaluate their jobs in the face of new dangers — or a realignment of priorities brought on by a once-in-a-lifetime public health disaster. Indeed, the pandemic has led to record numbers of people quitting their jobs — 4 million this April alone, a phenomenon so widespread it’s been called the Great Resignation.”

“over the past 70 years or so, retail, hospitality, and other service jobs have proliferated while the manufacturing sector and others that once provided well-paid jobs with benefits have shrunk. That’s part of the reason American wages stagnated and more and more people had to go without health insurance (at least before the passage of the Affordable Care Act). “To a degree, the crisis today in work is because of this huge expansion of the service sector, which was not covered by the kind of regulations or unions or social norms that we once expected,” Lichtenstein said.

Other factors, too, combined to make jobs worse. Long hours became more common as more and more workers were declared exempt from the 40-hour standard. The rise of “just-in-time scheduling” made retail and other service work increasingly unpredictable, leaving workers unsure if they’d get enough hours to be able to pay rent, or be able to find child care during their ever-changing shifts. And some jobs themselves changed to become less pleasant. Retail, for example, “moved toward more customer self-service and away from the sort of skilled model of retail selling,” which meant less opportunity to interact with customers and hone sales techniques, and more of an emphasis on mechanically keeping people moving through a store”

A Jobs-Killing Civilian Climate Corps Is Not the Way To Fix Climate Change

“The backlog of forest restoration projects suggests that there are issues on public lands that really need to be addressed, but that is not an argument for creating a vast new federal bureaucracy with as many as 1.5 million government employees.”