Tuesday, July 18, 2017

America’s Summer Labor Shortage

Trump’s 15,000 extra guest-worker visas aren’t nearly enough.


By The Editorial Board
The Wall Street Journal
July 18, 2017

Employers from Cape Cod bed-and-breakfasts to Alaskan fisheries have been begging the Trump Administration for more seasonal guest-worker visas. Summer is nearly half over, and on Monday the Department of Homeland Security finally agreed to issue 15,000 additional H-2B visas.

The H-2B visa program covers a myriad of industries that rely on seasonal labor including seafood, construction, skiing, tourism and landscaping. These jobs typically pay well, though they can be grueling and their temporary nature deters native-born Americans from applying. Some summer jobs in tourism used to be filled by teens who now spend their summers studying or volunteering.

Foreign workers have become even more crucial as labor markets have tightened amid near record low unemployment in many states. Unemployment is a mere 2.3% in Colorado, 2.7% in Hawaii and 3.2% in Maine. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 755,000 job openings in food services and accommodations in May, up 12% from a year ago.

H-2B visas are capped annually at 66,000, and the labor shortage was exacerbated after Congress last year refused to extend a provision in the law that allowed foreigners who had previously worked on H-2Bs to count toward the limit. But the omnibus budget that Congress passed in May let Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly increase the number of visas in consultation with Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.

While the 15,000 additional visas will no doubt be welcomed by employers, they won’t satisfy the growing demand for labor. More than 120,000 seasonal visas were requested this year, so tens of thousands of summer positions in hotels, fisheries and elsewhere will go unfilled. Businesses in disparate industries will be competing for too few foreign workers. And because the government usually requires between 30 to 60 days to process visas, workers may not arrive in time to benefit some employers. The result will be reduced economic output and perhaps shorter vacations for U.S. workers.

The decision to grant the new visas is a de facto admission that the U.S. has a labor shortage. Why hurt the economy by providing so few?


Article Link To The WSJ: