A Word About Immigration–And All Those Unfilled Jobs

A few boring statistics to start, but first:

As almost everyone knows the United States is somewhere around full employment, maybe beyond that (full employment doesn’t necessarily mean everyone who wants a job has one because people may be in transition from one to another or some other reason not to be working).

Anyway, here’s the point:

At the moment, about 7,300,000 jobs in the United States are waiting for someone to take them, and no,  I don’t have a breakdown of what kind of jobs they are or where. Nevertheless, that is a record number of unfilled jobs.

And I’m not done, the birthrate in the United States hit a 32 year low in 2018. The birthrate has been trending down down for some time. The fertility rate in the United States is below the replacement rate of 2,100 births per 1,000 women. The rate, according to an article in USA Today based on a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has been “generally” below the replacement rate since 1971 and “consistently” below the replacement rate for the past decade.

What’s my point, if you don’t already know? The United States needs immigrants, the best and the brightest from around the world, along with the tired, the poor, “the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

If we don’t get enough people from elsewhere, and if the people already here aren’t having enough children to increase or at least maintain the population sufficiently to keep our numbers from declining, who’s going to pay for Social Security and Medicare and all the other programs that rely on a growing population? Who’s going to take those unfilled jobs? Or will American companies be forced to export their unfilled jobs, sending the paychecks overseas and further adding to America’s balance of payment deficit that the current President worries so much about?

America, despite what the current President says, is not “full.” Far from it, or there wouldn’t be all those empty chairs where employers can’t get workers to sit in them.

This situation is another illustration of the hare-brained opposition to immigration reform that we’ve been living with for at least two decades. There might have been a moment of opportunity to enact immigration reform in the first two years of the Obama administration, but for whatever reason(s) it didn’t happen.

Of course, the economics of employment is complicated with lots of competing interests involved, but a rational, competent, sensible government, led by a leader interested in addressing the big issues confronting our great nation  could speak to the problem, formulate a policy and lead.

We may have forgotten that the function of government is to try to solve or at least ameliorate problems facing society. It’s been a while since our government has functioned that way. Lately one party tries to put up roadblocks in front of the other party’s efforts, and compromise, which used to be the essence of governing has become a dirty word.

We obviously don’t have that opportunity at the moment. Unfortunately, the gods keep throwing problems and worse at us, and they’re piling up while we dither.


  1. Susan Friedman on May 17, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    Right on!

  2. Sacha on May 18, 2019 at 11:46 am

    Excellent piece! I have a genuine question: the more we move to automation, and the more we have housing unavailability in urban area, in particular, is there a point at which it will be favorable that the US has a low replacement rate? I’m all for welcoming immigrants into the country. I’m just wondering if it’s a good thing that our birth replacement rate in falling?

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