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Labor Shortage Debate

- September 21, 2018
Does the country need more workers?
Featured Report

The improving economy has brought unemployment to an 18-year low, leading to what many experts say is a nationwide labor shortage that could hamper economic growth. Manufacturers, truckers, construction companies, retailers and other businesses say demand for skilled workers now exceeds supply. Adding pressure is an ongoing wave of Baby Boomer retirements that is leaving many jobs unfilled. But some economists contend the labor supply is more than adequate to meet demand. Unemployment figures do not count people who have stopped looking for work but still want a job, they note. Moreover, they argue that stagnant wage growth suggests most employers see little reason to raise pay to attract workers. Still, many employers are struggling to fill open positions, and some are resorting to creative ways, such as student-loan reimbursement, to recruit help. Meanwhile, the Trump administration's efforts to curb immigration have led to concerns that some industries, including agriculture, could have trouble filling jobs that few Americans have shown they want.

Potential Problems

Some workers have chosen to leave the job market.

Trump Actions

Critics call his commitment to training inconsistent.

Congressional Proposals

Bills focus on limiting or expanding the number of immigrant workers.

1810s–1960sThe rapidly industrializing nation experiences economic crises and labor disruptions.
1970s–1990sU.S. enters a period of “stagflation” — economic weakness and soaring inflation.
2000s-PresentSlow recovery from a deep recession eventually leads to reports of labor shortages.

Should employers be required to use E-Verify to avoid hiring undocumented immigrants?


Ira Mehlman
Media Director, Federation for American Immigration Reform.


Alex Nowrasteh
Senior Immigration Policy Analyst, Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, Cato Institute.


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