The premise of the Trump administration’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, which has unleashed numerous measures to restrict high-skilled immigration, is that U.S. professionals can’t get jobs because of immigrants. This raises a legitimate question: Has anyone in the administration making U.S. immigration policy checked the government data on unemployment – or do they simply choose to ignore it?
The unemployment rate among people with at least a bachelor’s degree in “computer and math science” occupations was only 2% for the first quarter of 2018, according to estimates from the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey. (The National Foundation for American Policy made the estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey Basic Monthly Files for January to March 2018.) It’s difficult to get much below 2% because of “frictional unemployment,” which happens, for example, when people go from an old job to a new job (i.e., individuals between jobs).
|Table 1: Unemployment Rate by Occupation Group (First Quarter of 2018)|
|Computer and Mathematical Science||2.0%|
|Architecture and Engineering||1.5%|
|Source: Estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey Basic Monthly Files for January to March 2018 by National Foundation for American Policy. Data for individuals with bachelor’s degree or higher.|
The unemployment rate for people with at least a bachelor’s degree in “architecture and engineering” occupations was only 1.5% the first quarter of 2018, according to the estimates from Department of Labor data. And for “all occupations,” the unemployment for individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree was 2.3%. The overall U.S. unemployment rate is extremely low at 3.9%.
The picture is even better if one looks at long-term unemployment, which is defined as being unemployed more than 26 weeks. Only 0.7% of people with a bachelor’s degree in computer and math science occupations have been unemployed for 26 weeks or longer. Only 0.4% of individuals with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and engineering occupations have been unemployed more than 26 weeks.
There are other indicators of the abundance of jobs in the U.S. economy:
- The Conference Board reported in a May 2018 report there are currently more than 6 times as many online ads as unemployed people for computer and mathematical science jobs – the best “Supply/Demand rate” of any occupational group.
- In April 2018, the Wall Street Journalreported, “If every unemployed person in the Midwest was placed into an open job, there would still be more than 180,000 unfilled positions, according to the most recent Labor Department data.”
- In May 2018, the Wall Street Journaleditorial page wrote, “The U.S. economy has arrived at this remarkable juncture: There were 6.59 million unemployed Americans in March, and the number of jobs waiting to be filled that month was 6.55 million. That is, there are almost as many job openings as job seekers, a near match not seen for many years.”
Despite this rosy economic news, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has laid out a far-reaching anti-immigration agenda based on the idea that the federal government – acting as a type of central planning organization – must enact numerous immigration restrictions or Americans won’t find work. Since 2017, USCIS policies have been designed to prevent as many high-skilled foreign nationals as possible from working in America, which, unfortunately, will push more jobs, research and innovations outside the United States.
USCIS seems determined to end the ability of international students to come to U.S. universities and later be hired by American companies, even though this cycle has helped fuel key parts of America’s information and science-based economy. An analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy found that in recent years former international students founded more than 20 U.S. companies that grew to be valued at $1 billion or more.
USCIS has announced it will enact regulations to establish a more restrictive definition of an H-1B specialty occupation, prevent the spouses of H-1B visa holders from working in the U.S. and restrict or eliminate entirely the ability of international students to work on Optional Practical Training, including individuals with graduate degrees in science, technology engineering and math (STEM) fields. USCIS also has made it much more difficult for high-skilled visas to be approved and has burdened companies and their customers with new rules on conducting work at client sites. (This article discusses a recent lawsuit filed against USCIS on “third-party placement.”)
All of this comes despite the evidence that immigrants do not cause any of the economic “harm” premised by these and other USCIS actions. A recent study for the National Foundation for American Policy by Madeline Zavodny, an economics professor at the University of North Florida (UNF) in Jacksonville, used a state-level analysis to research the impact of immigrants for the years 2005 to 2013. The studyconcluded: “The results of the state-level analysis indicate that immigration does not increase U.S. natives’ unemployment or reduce their labor force participation. Instead, having more immigrants reduces the unemployment rate and raises the labor force participation rate of U.S. natives within the same sex and education group.”
Why, when making immigration policy, do Trump administration officials act like America is the midst of the Great Depression? In contrast, House Speaker Paul Ryan stated recently that “The good economic news is everywhere you look.”
In reality, today, the only bad economic news being delivered in America comes from the Trump administration itself – each time it proposes a new restriction to prevent U.S. companies from hiring the high-skilled foreign nationals they need to grow and prosper in America.