Amid a growing skills shortage across computer-related jobs, US employers are turning to immigrant talent to fill the gaps, according to a new study. Research group New American Economy (NAE) found that for every unemployed computer or math worker in America in 2020, there were more than seven job postings for a computer-related occupation.
An excerpt from the New American Economy’s study said: “More nuanced and responsive policy around employment-based immigration could be one way to help the US more quickly and more robustly bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic and future economic disruptions and crises.”
The study comes following reports of record job openings in America, which coincide with persistent unemployment, suggesting a potential mismatch between demand for labor and supply.
US Chamber of Commerce
The US Chamber of Commerce recently launched a campaign to drive an increase in employment-based US immigration to help tackle the worker shortage.
NAE, which was founded by billionaire Mike Bloomberg, analyzed data from Labor Certification applications for foreign-born skilled workers, unemployment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and job vacancy data from the website Burning Glass Technologies.
According to NAE’s research, employers in the US posted 1.36 million job openings for computer-related roles in 2020. However, there were only 177,000 unemployed workers in computer and math occupations last year, based on NAE’s analysis of Labor Department data.
Meanwhile, employers continued to seek highly skilled immigrants to fill labor shortages throughout the pandemic. According to NAE, there were 371,641 foreign labor requests filed for computer-related jobs in 2020.
Historically, the US has disproportionately relied on overseas talent to fill computer-related jobs. According to NAE’s analysis of US Census data, immigrants made up more than 25% of the computer workforce in America in 2019, compared with 17.4% of the wider labor force.
Director of quantitative research at NAE, Andrew Lim, said: “The evidence in this report is really adding more support to the idea that there are still needs from employers in the United States for computer-related workers that are not being addressed by current US immigration policy.”
In 2020, an analysis of government data carried out by the nonpartisan National Foundation for American Policy found that a higher proportion of H1B visa holders in a given occupation actually reduced the unemployment rate and increased the earnings growth rate for American-born workers.
Immigration law professor at Cornell Law School, Stephen Yale-Loehr, said: “We have not revamped our legal immigration categories, including business immigration, since 1990. Some of those categories are out of alignment with our needs in the United States today.”
“The pandemic has exacerbated those inconsistencies because people who are desperately needed to restart various businesses have been unable to enter the United States,” Yale-Loehr added.
H4 work authorizations
Meanwhile, in May, Google spearheaded a lawsuit that backs H4 work authorizations for spouses of H1B visa holders. Signatories to the lawsuit included big name companies such as Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.
The companies said that H4 workers are essential to their operations, noting that two-thirds of people employed who hold a H4 visa, work in science, technology and mathematics jobs.
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