Immigrant Workers Bolster US Labor Market Amid Economic Challenges

The US labor market has grown 0.7% to 168 million, with foreign-born workers increasing 4.7% to 32 million, making up 19.2% of the workforce. Immigrant workers are filling labor gaps, particularly in agriculture, technology, and healthcare, and are expected to add $7 trillion to the US GDP over the next decade.

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Rafia Tasleem
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Immigrant Workers Bolster US Labor Market Amid Economic Challenges

Immigrant Workers Bolster US Labor Market Amid Economic Challenges

The US labor market is experiencing a significant boost from immigrant workers, who are playing a vital role in alleviating supply-demand imbalances in the post-pandemic economy. Since March 2024, the labor force has grown by 0.7% to nearly 168 million, with foreign-born participants increasing by a remarkable 4.7% to reach 32 million, now making up a record 19.2% of the entire US workforce.

Why this matters: The contribution of immigrant workers to the US labor market has significant implications for the country's economic growth and competitiveness. The contribution of immigrant workers to the US labor market has significant implications for the country's economic growth and competitiveness. Facing demographic challenges such as an aging population and low domestic birth rates, the role of immigrant workers in filling labor gaps will become increasingly vital.

Immigrant workers are not only growing in number but also demonstrating a higher labor force participation rate compared to their native-born counterparts. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell emphasized the importance of this trend, stating, "Perhaps more important is the effect immigration has had on the size of the labor force." The recent surge in immigration is proving vital in counterbalancing the challenges posed by low domestic birth rates and an aging population that threaten the supply of labor.

The impact of immigrant workers is being felt across various sectors of the economy, particularly in fields such as agriculture, technology, and healthcare, where labor shortages have been acute. Jennie Murray, CEO of the National Immigration Forum, asserted, "These folks are not taking jobs. They are helping to bolster and helping us build back — they're adding needed workers to the labor force."

The growing immigrant workforce is expected to contribute significantly to the nation's economic growth. The Congressional Budget Office projects that immigrant workers will add a staggering $7 trillion to the US gross domestic product over the next decade, underscoring the immense value they bring to the country's prosperity.

Goodwin Living, a nonprofit faith-based eldercare facility in Northern Virginia, exemplifies the reliance on immigrant workers. An impressive 40% of its 1,200-strong workforce hails from 65 different countries. CEO Rob Liebreich emphasized the growing need for immigrant workers in the eldercare sector, stating, "About 70% of 65-year-olds are expected to need long-term care in the future. We need a lot of hands to support those needs."

Recognizing the importance of its immigrant workforce, Goodwin Living has launched a citizenship program that provides financial resources, mentorship, and tutoring for workers seeking US citizenship. To date, 160 team members and 25 of their family members have either obtained citizenship or are in the process of doing so through this innovative initiative.

Wilner Vialer, a 35-year-old environmental services team lead at Goodwin Living, embodies the challenges and aspirations of many immigrant workers. Vialer, who came to the US from Haiti 13 years ago, lost his job during the pandemic but found a new opportunity at Goodwin Living, following in his mother's footsteps. He became a US citizen in 2021 and now hopes to reunite with his wife, from whom he has been separated for six years as a result of immigration challenges.

The 2024 presidential election approaches, immigration is expected to be a hot-button issue on the campaign trail and in the minds of voters. Both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have made recent trips to the southern border to address the large number of migrants entering the country. The ongoing debate surrounding immigration policies and their impact on the labor market is set to shape the political terrain in the coming months.

The vital role played by immigrant workers in bolstering key industries and driving economic growth has become increasingly evident while the nation faces economic challenges and labor shortages. Policymakers and businesses must recognize the immense value that immigrant workers bring to the table and work towards creating an inclusive and supportive environment that harnesses their skills and potential for the benefit of all.

Key Takeaways

  • Immigrant workers make up 19.2% of the US workforce, a record high.
  • They have a higher labor force participation rate than native-born workers.
  • Immigrants are expected to add $7 trillion to the US GDP over the next decade.
  • They are crucial in filling labor gaps in sectors like agriculture, tech, and healthcare.
  • Immigrant workers are driving economic growth and competitiveness in the US.