Inside the Amnesty Spin: WHAT labor shortage?

wallCongresswoman Renee Ellmers and other supporters of “comprehensive immigration reform” are trying to make their case by suggesting that we need to back off aggressive enforcement of immigration laws because there is supposedly an agriculture labor shortage. A new study by the Center For Immigration Studies is poking all kinds of holes in that argument: 

For several years stories in the media have reported a farm labor shortage. This study examines this question and finds little evidence to support this conclusion. First, fruit and vegetable production is actually rising. Second,
wages for farm workers have not risen dramatically. Third, household expenditure on fresh fruits and vegetables has remain relatively constant, averaging about $1 a day for the past decade.

The CIS study questions why Congress would want to open the floodgates when there are so many non-working Americans with modest levels of education out there:

[…] The number of working age adults who are not working has risen relatively quickly in the last 15 years. In 2000, 35.8 million native-born Americans between 18 and 65 years weren’t working. In 2006, the number was 40.5 million. In part because of the recession, the number spiked, and it 2013, stood at 50.5 million people.

The percentage of American adults who are not working has also gradually increased, from 24.1 percent in 2000 to 25.7 percent in 2006 before spiking upward 30.8 percent in 2013.

The study found the decline in employment cut across all racial, educational, and demographic groups. While native-born African Americans and Hispanics are the hardest hit races and decreased education seems to exacerbate the problem, all Americans have seen a downward slope in employment attainment success since 2000.

“Congress is currently considering immigration reform packages that include work permits for those in the country illegally, as well as substantial increases in future legal immigration,” CIS’s Steven Camarota and Karen Ziegler wrote in the report. “Yet the latest employment data continue to show an enormous number of working-age Americans not working, particularly those with modest levels of education.”

One key finding of the CIS report is that in the fourth quarter of 2013 the unemployment rate for American-born adults who have not completed high school and have looked for a job in the last four weeks was at 16.6 percent. For American-born adults seeking a job in the last four weeks with just a high school diploma, unemployment stood at 8.5 percent. Under the broader measure of unemployment, working age Americans who want to work but haven’t looked in a while or have been forced into part-time job, 28.7 percent of American-born adults without a high school degree are unemployed and 16.5 percent of Americans with a high school diploma are unemployed. […]

The study’s authors say that kind of data indicates “there is no legitimate way advocates of a significant increase in legal immigration and amnesty could argue there is a labor shortage in America and therefore a need for foreign workers.” :

“There are many in Congress, of both parties, who seem to think that labor is in short supply,” Camarota said. “The only way to come to that conclusion is to ignore all of the data the government collects on employment or wages. The only piece of evidence that there is a labor shortage is testimonials of employers who want to bring in additional foreign workers,” he added.

Another key finding of the CIS report found that in the fourth quarter of 2013, only two working age American-born workers held a job for every one such worker not working. “This represents a huge deterioration,” the authors wrote about that finding. “As recently as 2000, there were three working-age adults holding a job for every one not working.”

“Across the labor market the employment situation remains dismal,” Camarota said in an email. “The percentage and number of working-age American not working are near record highs. Things are especially bad for the young, minorities, and the less-educated. Yet the Senate passed a bill that gives work permits to millions of illegal immigrants and doubles the number of foreign workers allowed into the country. There is a real disconnect between what Washington is doing on immigration, and what is actually happening in the U.S. labor market.”