Jobs Available, Unemployment Remains High

Written by on August 16, 2010 in Economics with 1 Comment

Despite a stagnant economy and unemployment rate, Mark Whitehouse at the Wall Street Journal reports that some companies are still struggling to hire workers. As Whitehouse explains:

Since the economy bottomed out in mid-2009, the number of job openings has risen more than twice as fast as actual hires, a gap that didn’t appear until much later in the last recovery. The disparity is most notable in manufacturing, which has had among the biggest increases in openings. But it is also appearing in other areas, such as business services, education and health care.


Many of the employment sectors left unfilled are traditionally filled by foreign born workers, who are not in competition with native born U.S. citizens. At the site of the infamous Postville immigration raid, the newly reformed company, Agri Star, is struggling to both hire workers and to make a profit. The reality remains that part of the solution to our struggling economy must be comprehensive immigration reform which allows for legalization of the many workers who can fill these jobs, and programs that account for future flow of immigrants to fill other employment gaps.

Slate columnist Daniel Gross theorizes that the gap between unemployment and hiring may be caused by employers who simply are not offering workers enough benefits. Gross explains that:

In the past few decades, workers have generally lost ground against employers in negotiating terms of employment. Defined-benefit pension plans have been replaced by 401(K)s, and then employers sometimes cut the matching contributions. A smaller percentage of private-sector jobs today come with health insurance, while many workers who have insurance have to pay more for it.

Without question, the myriad economic issues we are to face in the next decade are complex, but passing comprehensive immigration reform would at the very least start to solve some of them. While Congress has been slow to realize this, the majority of the American public (including 61% of Democrats and Independents and 59% of Republicans) wants comprehensive immigration reform, now. Despite public support, Mark Penn summarizes the political problems facing immigration legislation:

This is an issue that can only be solved through a centrist effort that would bring together moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats into a grand bargain on all of the major issues. The left and the right would vote down any likely compromise, but there probably would be enough votes in the center to get it done in a common sense, non-partisan way. But that’s the rub – there is no political mechanism in today’s polarized environment for bringing together the kind of cross-caucus coalition necessary to pass a bill. And perhaps this illustrates exactly why the voters are so sour on Congress – they now perceive it as an institution that can’t overcome partisan divides to find solutions to today’s growing and intractable problems outside of the red/blue framework.

Both sides of Congress appear so afraid to lose before the November elections that a near-term solution looks unlikely. Maybe after that, they can put aside politics and pass an immigration bill that is good for citizens, immigrants, and the U.S. economy alike.

Photo by Kandyjaxx

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