Yet Another Study Shows H1B Workers Help Create Jobs for U.S. Workers21 May 2020
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to ravage the nation, Americans are grappling with a grim consequence of the mass business closures intended to halt the spread of the virus: rampant unemployment. Last month, over 20 million people lost their jobs, triggering a double-digit unemployment rate not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. And while the despair of hard working families who are now struggling to pay bills and put food on the table isn’t something that should be politicized, it appears that immigrants are once again caught in a legislative crossfire.
Earlier this month, five lawmakers petitioned President Trump to temporarily ban issuance of new H1B visas on the grounds that a restriction on foreign workers entering the United States will open up job availability for native born Americans. Fortunately, as of yet, there is no indication that any such action is forthcoming. But, it does highlight the continued ignorance of many elected officials about the realities of what the H1B nonimmigrant work visa category does for the United States.
A recent study highlights just how much America benefits from nonimmigrant workers, and the H1B category in particular. The study was conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group focused on public policy research of topics including immigration, trade, and education. It found that on average, for every 1 percentage point increase of H1B workers into an occupational field, the overall unemployment rate in that field is reduced by 0.2 percentage points. Likewise, a 1 percentage point increase in H1B workers in an occupation results in an average wage increase between .01 to .26 percentage points.
Economist and author of the study Madeline Zavodny explained how H1B workers strengthen job security and increase wages for American workers in a series of notes that were published alongside her data. According to her research, “the alternative for many employers to using H1B visas is not to hire more American workers but rather to hire more workers overseas. Many of the skilled, specialized jobs filled by H1B visa holders and highly educated U.S. workers alike can be done remotely…making them vulnerable to offshoring.” In other words, H1B workers keep American jobs in America during an era increasingly punctuated by globalization and a shift to overseas commerce. [See The Impact of H1B Visa Holders on the U.S. Workforce by Madeline Zavodny, National Foundation for American Policy, May 2020.]
While the fate of temporary foreign worker visas in an age that is increasingly hostile to immigrants remains unknown, it is worth noting that the H1B program is already heavily restricted. Statutory limits place an annual cap on new H1B workers. Meanwhile, the number of H1B petitions denied by the USCIS has risen steadily over the past several years. In an economy that remains in freefall, the timing of this threat to implement further restrictions on foreign national workers couldn’t be worse. As long as the American dream of thousands of H1B workers is systematically threatened by an inimical immigration process, the futures of their native born American co-workers are equally fragile. [See Immigration Study Finds H-1B Visas Help U.S. College Grads by Stuart Anderson, Forbes.com, 19.May.2020.]
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