Column | To 2018 graduating class: Beware jobs market landmines
In June, about four million teenagers will graduate from high school, and another three million or so will earn associate or four-year university degrees. The happy graduates should view cautiously the strong May Bureau of Labor Statistics report that showed growth in employment and wages. While the economy added 223,000 jobs in May and for the year average hourly earnings increased 2.7 percent, an ever-expanding labor force assures that essentially stagnant wages will continue to plague American workers and keep the U.S. locked in a wage recession.
Congress, arriving back on Capitol Hill this week from what most would call a vacation, but members like to identify as “constituent work days,” always pledges to have young Americans’ futures at heart. Yet, immediately upon its return, Congress will begin its umpteenth round of immigration haranguing. And as it always does, Congress will omit from its debate the deleterious effect millions of employment authorization documents issued to immigrants, both permanent residency and temporary status, has on the labor pool, including these seven million job-seeking graduates.
Front and center on the upcoming congressional agenda are deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACAs) and DREAMers. DACAs, who have work permission, and DREAMers both want full legal status. With legal immigration compounding at the rate of more than 1 million annually year after year, employment-based visas adding about 750,000 guest workers to the economy each year and asylum approvals, the labor market continuously expands – outpacing job creation – and by extension gradually squeezes out large segments of the American working-age population.
Over-immigration, and Congress’ steadfast refusal to address its impacts, harms not just recent graduates, but also older, minority and military retiree job seekers.
For recent graduates though, unemployment and under-employment have forced more back home to live with parents, rather than entering other types of domestic housing situations. In 2014, for the first time in more than 130 years, adults ages 18 to 34 were more likely to be living in their parents’ home than they were to be living with a spouse or partner in their own household. Today, the young adults in this age range who remain at home still is high.
Like America’s youth, another economically struggling demographic is retired military personnel. According to a recent report, veteran job seekers are struggling to find meaningful employment, with nearly one-third self-identifying as underemployed. Congress’ immigration obsession also ignores millions of American black and Hispanic minorities who need employment.
Overall, 40 million people live in poverty in America. The United Way ALICE Project found that an estimated 50.8 million households, or 43 percent of households, can’t afford basic essentials, including housing, food, transportation and health care.
No intellectual argument can be made that more immigration helps America’s young, its poor, its workers or its unemployed. Yet immigration continues at unsustainably high levels as if it were on autopilot, much to the voting public’s dismay and consternation.