Worker shortages: 2 million immigrant worker gap

The Economist reports: For new truck drivers in Portland, Oregon, a $30,000 signing bonus. An end to automatic daily housekeeping at most Hilton and Marriott hotels. Offers by Amazon and Walmart to cover college tuition for their employees. America has about 3 million fewer workers now than on the eve of the pandemic, a 2% contraction in the labor force.  Retirement has greatly expanded due in part to higher private wealth and workforce immigration was shut down due to COVID and Trump policies.

The outflow of retirees has grown by over two times:

Per Pew, Between 2008 and 2019, the retired population ages 55 and older grew by about 1 million retirees per year. In the past two years, the ranks of retirees 55 and older have grown by 3.5 million. The WSJ shows cases involving higher home and stock market valuations.

Foreign-born workforce stopped growing:

Researchers at UC/Davis (Peri and Zalour) report: Prior to 2019, the foreign born population of working age (18 to 65) grew by about 660,000 people per year. This trend came to a stop already in 2019 before the pandemic, due to a combination of stricter immigration enforcement and a drop in the inflow of Mexican immigrants. The halt to international travel in 2020 added a significant drop in the working-age immigrant population. As of the end of 2021, the number of working-age foreign-born people in the United States is still somewhat smaller than it was in early 2019. and, relative to the level it would have achieved if the 2010-2019 trend had continued, there is a shortfall of about 2 million people.

A similar calculation done using Current Population Survey (CPS) monthly data on foreign-born individuals with a college degree indicates that of the missing two million foreign workers, about 950,000 would have been college educated, had the pre-2020 trend continued. This is a very substantial loss of skilled workers, equal to 1.8 percent of all college-educated individuals working in the US in 2019.


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