The U.S. economy is slowing as fewer immigrant workers come to fill jobs

By Joel Rose, WAMC Northeast Public Radio |

ROSE: Roy Beck is the head of NumbersUSA, a nonprofit in Washington that pushes for lower levels of immigration. And he's the author of a new book called "Back Of The Hiring Line."

BECK: It is proven that you tighten the labor market and wages go up. It always happens. The fact that we had one year of less immigration contributed to that, and that's good. It's one of the most positive things that could happen for tackling the economic inequality.

ROSE: Beck argues that too much immigration hurts native-born workers, particularly those with less education, though many economists say the effect is small. By all accounts, there are other, bigger reasons for the current labor shortage, with millions of workers retiring or reluctant to come back to work during the pandemic. But it would be a mistake to ignore the effects of immigration, says Karthick Ramakrishnan. He teaches public policy at the University of California, Riverside.

KARTHICK RAMAKRISHNAN: If you had a slowdown in immigration when there's very little demand for labor, you're not going to see that much of an effect. But we saw a lot of demand for labor even before the pandemic, and that has only accelerated.

ROSE: Right now, with millions of job openings, Ramakrishnan says there is a lot of demand for labor.

RAMAKRISHNAN: So absolutely the slowdown in immigration is making a difference.