Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration while president — along with the effect of the COVID pandemic — has left the U.S. economy in critical need of workers, significantly hobbling growth, according to economists.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has estimated that the economy is short an astonishing 3.5 million workers, and economists estimate half of those workers would typically be migrants allowed into the country, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
“There is no question: We need more immigration,” Adam Ozimek, chief economist at the Economic Innovation Group, a bipartisan public policy organization, told the Post.
“Immigrants aren’t just workers, they are particularly flexible, mobile workers who help address acute labor shortages wherever they emerge,” he added. “And that’s particularly important in this constrained economy we’re facing right now.”
During his 2016 presidential campaign and while in office, Trump typically characterized immigrants as a detriment to the nation and specifically referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and criminals. While president, he complained about migrants coming from “shithole” nations.
But immigrants are tremendously valuable in national economies, according to data. They provide a flexible workforce and are often willing to do jobs Americans turn down, such as low-paying, physically demanding work in the hospitality, agriculture, construction and health care industries.
Worker shortages can lead to higher prices as employers raise wages to lure workers to jobs.
Immigration has “rebounded somewhat” in the last six months, the Post noted, but major shortages remain while the nation also grapples with worker losses caused by retirements and health issues, the newspaper reported.
The “crisis” had triggered a bipartisan push to increase legal immigration, but efforts went nowhere, according to the Post.
Giovanni Peri, director of the Global Migration Center at the University of California, Davis, estimates it could be another four years before the country makes up for current shortfalls through more legal immigration. Even then, he told the Post, it won’t be enough to catch up to the aging American workforce, which will leave millions of more positions unfilled.
Check out the full Washington Post report here.