Immigration to the United States tapered off during the Trump administration — then ground to a near complete halt for 18 months during the coronavirus pandemic — the country is waking up to a labor shortage partly fueled by that slowdown.
The U.S. has, by some estimates, 2 million fewer immigrants than it would have if the pace had stayed the same, helping power a desperate scramble for workers in many sectors, from meatpacking to homebuilding, that is also contributing to supply shortages and price increases.
“These 2 million missing immigrants are part of the reason we have a labor shortage,” said Giovanni Peri, an economist at the University of California “In the short run, we are going to adjust to these shortages in the labor market through an increase in wages and in prices.”
But even before Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election vowing to cut immigration, migration to the United States was slowing. The Great Recession dried up many jobs that drew workers to the country, legally or illegally. Rising standards of living in Latin America have prodded more people to stay put — or to return from the United States.
Given a decline in births in the United States over the past two decades, some economists forecast the overall pool of potential workers will start shrinking by 2025.