Guzzardi column: August jobs report omits key data about future challenges
Shortly after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its August report — which showed that the economy had created a middling 130,000 new jobs — the White House issued an effusive statement.
Pointing to record low unemployment rates for black Americans (5.5 percent) and Hispanics(4.2 percent), the White House report boasted, “The Trump Administration’s pro-growth policies continue to move workers off the sidelines and develop an even more prosperous economy.”
But the monthly BLS reports often lose their glow when analyzed with greater scrutiny. In August, government jobs increased by 34,000, low-paying education and health care added 32,000 and professional and business services increased by 37,000. Even though August reflected solid and welcome wage growth in many employment sectors, building a retirement nest egg on the incomes of any of those mostly hourly wage jobs is nearly impossible.
The August pattern of most new employment coming in low-paying jobs has repeated itself month after month all too often, dating back to previous Republican and Democratic administrations. The BLS data poses an interesting question — will the economy provide enough jobs to match the current annual population growth, the 4 million young Americans who turn 18 each year, and the more than 1 million immigrants who receive lifetime-work permits upon being granted permanent residency?
Dire predictions that robotics will displace tens of millions of workers and slash employment by as much as 30 percent by 2030 must also be considered. Even if dramatically overstated, those forecasts still have a ring of truth about them. The United States is not providing a clear pathway for future generations to move forward toward a middle-class lifestyle.
Although immigration as a variable in the labor pool is rarely discussed as part of the headline mainstream media coverage, a quick look at the numbers proves that it should be. For nearly three decades, immigration totals have exceeded the historical 250,000 intakes by, on average, more than four times or in excess of 1 million each year.
Over the last 30 years, the federal government has granted millions of employment authorization documents that allow new arrivals to compete with citizens and existing immigrants for low- and high-skilled employment. The federal government doesn’t keep hard and fast guest worker totals, but the estimate is between 750,000 and 1 million annually. Immigration critics have long decried guest worker programs as cheap labor vehicles that hurt vulnerable Americans but enhance corporations’ bottom lines.
Nearly every foreign national that gets to the U.S. interior, including illegal Southwest Border crossers, will eventually receive work permission. In early September, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it was releasing into the interior about 200 aliens each day. As immigration parolees, they’ll soon become work-authorized or enter the underground economy.
Here’s a little more math: Assuming about 250 working days in the federal calendar times 200 caught and released migrants per day, that translates into 50,000 more work permits per annum. To Beltway-enclosed elitists, the total is trivial, but to down-on-their-luck Americans, 50,000 represents another significant challenge to overcome.
Expansionists often make emotionally charged arguments on behalf of maintaining immigration at its annual level of more than 1 million, or lobby for higher totals. But based on the aggregate accumulated data over the last 30 years, no intellectually credible case can be put forward to keep immigration going at its current pace.
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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