The Trump administration effectively cut in half the number of temporary H-2B visas for 2017. This has caused employers to scramble to find workers for landscaping, amusement park, resort housekeepers and similar jobs. The New York Times and the Washington Post ran stories of desperate employers.
As reported by the NY Times, “Eric Haugen, who runs a landscaping company in the Denver area, regularly posts ads in newspapers, on Craigslist and on street signs for positions that pay $14 to $25 an hour, with health care and benefits. ‘We hire every single person who shows up’ for an interview, he said. We are lucky if one reports to work.’ ”
“On Mackinac, the 393-room Grand Hotel is short staff. ‘Without them, we would be looking at changing our entire business model,’ Jennifer King, general manager of the property, said.”
Daniel Costa of the Economics Priority Institute told Congress in 2016 that “Despite such claims from industry groups—other than employer anecdotes—no credible data or labor market metrics have been presented by non-employer-affiliated groups or organizations—let alone by disinterested academics—proving the existence of labor shortages in H-2B occupations that could justify a large expansion of the H-2B program.”
A labor shortage can be defined as (1) rising real wages relative to other occupations, (2) faster-than-average employment growth, and (3) relatively low and declining unemployment rates.
Wage trends: for the top 15 H-2B occupations, “there was no significant wage growth for workers; wages were stagnant (growing less than 1 percent annually) or declined for workers in all of the top 15 H-2B occupations between 2004 and 2014.”
Employment growth: “the top 15 H-2B occupations had widely varying rates of employment growth. Six experienced employment declines; seven experienced growth that was positive and above the 5.5 percent growth rate for all occupations; and two experienced growth that was lower than the percentage change for all occupations.”
Unemployment rates: The average annual unemployment rate for all workers in the United States in 2014 was 6.2 percent. During 2013–2014, none of the 15 H-2B occupations was at or below the overall U.S. unemployment rate for 2014.