This election season, we will hear a lot about the economy, inflation, product shortages and labor shortages. You will also hear a lot about immigration in the context of border security, the importance of stemming the flow of undocumented migrants and a poorly protected southern border. The recent tragedy in Texas that resulted in the deaths of 53 migrant men, women and children is proof of this.
Sadly, few will see the connection to the need for employment-based immigration policies that can ensure an orderly flow of immigrants into the country while helping to address our labor shortages – and yet , they are closely related.
Economists have been sounding the alarm for years. Dr. Rachel Sederberg of Lightcast (formerly Emsi Burning Glass), a leading think tank on the issue of labor shortages in the United States, noted in a recent article that when the COVID-19 pandemic settled in February 2020, “there were 7 million job openings and 5.9 million unemployed in the United States. … If we want to get to an equivalent point today and keep up with our population growth, we need 2.9 million more (workers).
Many researchers point to key drivers of these shortages, including the high number of baby boomers retiring, low birth rates and low labor market attachment. While we, as a nation, must make a supreme effort to help find new employment for those who have dropped out of the workforce, we must face the fact that there simply aren’t enough workers to continue to successfully grow our economy.
According to a May 2022 study by Kimberly Amadeo, unemployment was between 7% and 11% nationally during the last national period of high inflation in the late 1970s and early 1980s. his study shows that unemployment is less than 4% nationally. Labor supply is what we need now to fuel the economic recovery. Employment-based immigration is an essential part of this equation.
In many conversations I’ve had with local business people in my home region of west-central Ohio, the responses echo that sentiment. There simply aren’t enough people to fill the jobs that need to be filled, whether skilled workers or labour-intensive workers.
In my recently completed doctoral dissertation, “Context and Culture: A Phenomenological Study of Blue Collar Workers in Two Multicultural Workplaces,” the blue collar workers I interviewed also shared this sentiment. One worker said in the study, “I don’t believe there’s been a single time in my career here where we’ve been fully staffed.” A migrant worker from the same company said, “There are too many no-shows at work. … At the moment, we are short of people.
Even in an environment where wages and salaries are rising to unprecedented levels, there are not enough people for the economy to grow and prosper.
Employment-based immigration at all skill levels, especially given the many other labor headwinds, is a critical component to addressing labor shortages.
Border security is a critical issue for our nation. The same goes for having enough labor to grow our economy. We need to be able to walk and chew gum when it comes to our approach to immigration reform, which is why my company joined Ohio Business for Immigration Solutions, a uniquely focused business coalition on educating and informing local, state, and federal policymakers about the importance of common-sense immigration reforms focused on improving our state’s economy and workforce.
Sensible immigration reform is a key part of a comprehensive workforce strategy and is essential to the economic progress of our state and our nation.
Dr. Tom Milligan is a business owner, college administrator, and economic development leader in West Central Ohio and a recent graduate of Franklin University’s Doctor of Business Administration program in Columbus. He is a member of the steering committee of Ohio Business for Immigration Solutions. Join it at [email protected] His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.