Dismal March Labor Report Deflates Jobs Recovery Hype

The March Bureau of Labor Statistics report was a disappointment with the economy adding only 103,000 jobs. March’s poor performance deflated the enthusiasm February’s report generated with its 313,000 new jobs, the biggest increase in 1-1/2 years. From the 320,000 revised February total, the jobs created drop-off measured 66 percent. Since January, monthly new employment averages are 202,000 – not terrible, but nothing to shout about.

As usual, apologists dismissed the employment report’s palpable downside, blamed it on cold weather, a favorite villain. Completely and purposefully overlooked is a more important yet unmentionable variable – federal immigration policy that admits about one million legal immigrants who receive life-time valid employment authorization documents which permits them to work in any job category, and dramatically expands the labor market. Too many workers compete for too few jobs, forcing many Americans who would like to be employed to the sidelines. In March, the number of Americans not in the labor force, measured month over month, increased by 323,000 to more than 95 million.

On top of the one million average, historically high immigration levels, the U.S. grants between 750,000 and one million employment-based guest worker visas which makes job seeking for at-risk unskilled and under-educated Americans more challenging. For young Americans, immigration means one green card per every four who turn 18 and become full-time employment candidates.

Moreover, prime-age American male employment is in long-term decline. A 2016 White House report, prepared during President Obama’s administration, revealed that foreign-born prime-age men participate in the labor market at higher rates than the native-born. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City predicted that prime-age Americans may never return to the employment market. Lawful permanent residents’ participation rate has risen over the last two decades by 1.4 percentage point, while the native-born prime-age male participation fell by 4.4 percentage points.

When viewed through accelerating automation’s prism, the one million annual work permits issued to newly arrived immigrants becomes indefensible. Recently, a respected think tank, the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, found that in the near future 13 million American jobs will be lost, mainly in manufacturing and agriculture, and principally among the young and economically vulnerable.

For Congress to continue decade after decade, as it has since 1990, to authorize millions of new U.S. workers is obviously flawed, and detrimental to the American labor force, both employed and unemployed. Since 1990, federal immigration laws have provided about 25 million work permits to newly arrived lawful permanent residents.

Tight labor markets, in other words, less immigration, is good for American workers. For the unemployed, reduced immigration means that more jobs will eventually open up. For the employed, wages will increase. In his speech to business leaders, Minneapolis Federal Reserve Board president Neel Kashkari told business leaders to stop whining about worker shortages, and start raising wages.

Despite the incontrovertible connections among a loose labor market, high immigration, tepid employment reports and stagnant wages, analysts refuse to include congressionally mandated immigration into their analyses. The U.S. accepts more immigrants than any nation, and will always be welcoming. Wanting Congress to pass immigration laws that help, not hurt, U.S. workers isn’t anti-immigrant, but rather pro-American.

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