Labor shortages driving up demand for temp foreign workers

Employers across occupations are increasingly relying on all available temporary worker channels to respond to labor shortages. This is according to the Migration Policy Institute.

H-2A (primarily for farm workers)

This has seen a more than twelve-fold increase over two decades—from 11,000 visas issued in 1996 to more than 134,000 in 2016.

At least half of farm workers today are unauthorized. In 2015, the flows of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico to the United States reached a net negative, with more people returning to Mexico than coming to the United States. The Mexican farmworker population has been aging out of the job. In California, crop production wages increased 13% between 2010 and 2015.

H-2B (generally, seasonal hospitality and other workers)

From 2013 to 2016, the number of H-2B visas issued increased 47%, from 58,000 to 85,000, and the program is already showing evidence of extraordinary growth in 2017. By the midway point of fiscal year (FY) 2017, employers had sought approval for 121,000 H-2B workers. Maine relies on H-2B visas for 10% of its 100,000 hospitality workers annually.

H-1B (skilled workers)

Demand has been increasing in a tightening labor market. In 2016, 180,000 H-1B visas were issued, a 53 percent increase from 2010 and the largest number in more than two decades. More and more American vs. Indian companies are using these workers. the American share grew from 40% in 2012 to 61% in 2016.

The unemployment rate for computer and mathematical occupations in the United States was 1.9% in May 2017. These are precisely the occupations most commonly filled by H-1B workers: in FY 2015, 66.5% of H-1B workers were employed in computer-related occupations.

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