Showing posts with label immigration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label immigration. Show all posts

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Donald Trump's agriculture advisor in Georgia expresses concerns about farm labor

Gary Black, Georgia’s Commissioner of Agriculture and a member of Donald Trump's agriculture policy advisory council, expressed his concern about farm labor issues and their effect on Georgia’s farmers during a listening session that included representatives from the offices of Senators David Perdue and Johnny Isakson.


In a news release after the meeting, he is quoted as saying, “We are talking today about what we need to do now to ensure our farmers have the labor they need in the spring,” said Commissioner Black.

The release goes on to say:

During the meeting Georgia farmers Drew Echols, Russ Goodman and Chris McCorkle relayed the many challenges they faced this year while attempting to use the federal H-2A program. The H-2A program is a critically important tool for America’s farmers and ranchers who need timely, legal and dependable workers to harvest valuable crops which are seasonal in nature.

“There is no debate on the fact that the H-2A program is our best option for harvesting our crops. We just hope to work with the Department of Labor to find ways to strengthen that program in the future,” said blueberry farmer Russ Goodman. “It is very important that they understand that we have a time-sensitive commodity and any amount of delay can have a huge impact on our bottom line.”

The listening session highlighted the need for enhanced coordination to eliminate processing delays within the H-2A program. During the 2016 spring harvest, Georgia farmers faced millions of dollars in crop losses as the Department of Labor struggled to process an increased number of applications for foreign migrant labor.

“We are not here to point fingers, but instead to have a proactive and constructive conversation on how to avoid the missteps from last year and safeguard against it ever happening again,” Black said.

The news release does not mention Donald Trump or his views on immigration policy.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Is Atlanta running out of workers?

With the Atlanta region seeing continued employment growth, employers may need to leave jobs unfilled if they cannot find sufficient numbers of qualified workers.



Back in 2008-2009 during the recession, it would have been a question that would get you laughed out of a conference: Is the Atlanta region running out of workers?

From the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2010, the Atlanta area shed more than 200,000 jobs. Since then, the area’s employment has grown by more than 390,000. In October alone, the metro area recorded 32,400 new jobs. 

For the 12 months ending in October, the Atlanta metro area’s 3.5% increase placed it as the largest percentage increase among the nation’s 10 top population centers, beating areas like Dallas and Los Angeles and far outdistancing the nation’s 2% employment increase.At the same time, as impressive as the job creation has been, so far 2015 has seen a net increase of 9,100 fewer jobs compared to the same period in 2014.

Are businesses in the Atlanta area creating fewer new jobs simply because they are running out of good candidates to hire? If so, what options are available to increase the pool of available workers?

Labor Force

Back during the depths of the recession, Atlanta’s labor force (which the government defines as the number of workers employed plus those unemployed but actively seeking work) hit a low of about 2.7 million after climbing steadily over the previous 18 years. The drop off could easily be explained by the large number of workers who, faced with unemployment, chose instead early retirement or just became discouraged and dropped out of the labor force.

It was expected that as the economy improved, those workers would rejoin the labor force. Since that low point, labor force for the Atlanta metro area has grown much slower than the number of new jobs. From 2010 to 2012, about 102,000 people were added to the area’s labor force. Since then, only another 27,000 have been added in the past 30 months.



The slow growth in labor force is not confined to Georgia. Looking forward, a recent federal government report anticipates that rate of growth in the nation’s labor force will continue to decline. From 1994 to 2004, the nation’s labor force grew by 12.5%. The government now expects the U.S. labor force to grow by only 5.0% from 2014 to 2024.

Population is not an issue in the Atlanta metro area as the region continues to add people. The Census Bureau estimates that between 2010 and 2014, the Atlanta metro area has added more than 327,000 new residents.

What happened to the rest? Economists speculate that the lack of growth in labor force numbers can be attributed to two simultaneous trends. With an ageing population, it is thought that older workers are retiring, while younger folks choose school over work believing that more education will make them more valuable to employers in the future. It is also possible that some discouraged workers forced out of the labor force from the recession have given up and will never return.

There are some anecdotal information in support of these theories. In addition, the recession saw a spike in the number of workers applying for Social Security disability. Those on permanent disability may represent an additional group of former workers who plan to never return to employment.

Migration within Georgia

While the Atlanta area has been “red hot” in terms of job growth, the same cannot be said for the rest of the state. Smaller metro areas, such as Albany and Brunswick, actually continue to record employment losses. The Albany area employs about the same number of workers as it did in the early 1990's, while Brunswick and Valdosta have reported no net job growth in the past 10 years.

Could these workers be persuaded to move to the Atlanta area? It is possible, although it would be mainly younger workers and the more educated who would be most likely to seek out new opportunities leaving behind an older, less educated workforce in those areas.

While it is certain that these areas would like to attract businesses to relocate to their areas, increasingly, it appears that large metro areas provide benefits not available in smaller communities. These benefits include a large number of potential customers, easy interaction with both suppliers and customers, and improved social and cultural infrastructure (schools, hospitals, museums, music venues, etc.) that are simply not available without a large population.

Even if Atlanta was able to attract more workers from these three smaller metro areas, their combined labor forces are less than 175,000. Moving even 10% of these to Atlanta would boost the Atlanta metro by only 17,000 or so. It would take migration from all parts of Georgia to significantly boost the Atlanta area’s labor force, which already accounts for approximately half of the state’s labor force.

Migration from other states

The Atlanta region has had particular success in encouraging people from other parts of the U.S. to relocate to the Atlanta region. Much of the area’s growth in the 1990's came from people moving from other southeastern states, as well as the Northeast and Midwest, to Georgia.

Some of the causes of this previous migration might be hard to re-create. Previous so-called “rust belt” states are also experiencing recovering economies so that people are not as desperate to move from their home areas. While Georgia has previously exploited its role as a “right-to-work” state, other states, such as Indiana and Michigan have now passed similar laws. West Virginia may be the next state to remove this incentive for companies to relocate to Georgia.

Finally, the return migration of African-Americans back to southern states has occurred and is not likely to be repeated in such a large scale in the future.

Migration from outside the U.S.

Unlike the Northeast, Georgia did not greatly benefit from an influx of European immigrants in the 19th Century. A report from the Pew Research Center indicates that from 2009 to 2014, the number of Mexicans in the United States actually declined by a net of 130,000. The report speculates that “the slow recovery of the U.S. economy after the Great Recession may have made the U.S. less attractive to potential Mexican migrants and may have pushed out some Mexican immigrants as the U.S. job market deteriorated. In addition, stricter enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, particularly at the U.S.-Mexico border (Rosenblum and Meissner, 2014), may have contributed to the reduction of Mexican immigrants coming to the U.S. in recent years.”

As immigrants find better opportunities closer to home, they are less likely to search for jobs in the U.S. Those immigrants who are more likely to come to the U.S., such as Syrians, Iraqis, and others whose own homelands are being disrupted by war, are finding it harder to emigrate as the U.S. strengthens its barriers to entry.

As state leaders speak about in discouraging the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Georgia, the result might not only dampen Middle Eastern refugees’ enthusiasm for relocating to Georgia, it may also give pause to immigrants from other parts of the world who might feel that Georgia is not a welcoming location for any non-U.S. citizens regardless of religion or national origin.

Solutions

Labor Force: Enticing people back into the labor force may take a combination of offering higher wages and providing social support (such as daycare, improved transportation, etc.) to make work both possible and profitable. Other possibilities include allowing more work to be done at home. Education, often offered by policymakers as a solution, might have long-term effects, but cannot quickly solve the current deficits in the labor force.

Migration within Georgia: The Georgia Department of Labor can make information about job availability in the Atlanta area more readily available to residents in other parts of the state. There may need to communicate the advantages of moving to the Atlanta area, even to the point of helping people understand their options for housing, transportation, etc.

Migration from other states: The Georgia Department of Economic Development could begin a campaign similar to their corporate relocation and expansion efforts but one targeted at workers rather than companies. By focusing on certain skillsets that are most in demand, the agency could encourage both new workers and existing workers to consider relocating to Georgia for their career futures.

Migration from outside the U.S.: Georgia needs to make clear that citizens from other nations with legal work visas are welcomed in the state and help encourage conditions that help immigrants make an easier transition to living in Georgia.

Finally, a less desirable solution to the labor force problem is to have the state’s economy slow down so that the state’s businesses will have less need for additional workers. While it is unlikely that the state would cause such a slowdown deliberately, Georgia is very tied to the national economy and another national recession will certainly impact the state’s business community. Remembering that the previous recession ended six years ago, it is certainly possible that another downturn will develop, which will relieve pressure on Georgia’s slow-growth labor force.

Without any of these solutions, Georgia’s employment numbers may fade on their own as businesses fail to find qualified applicants and leave jobs unfilled.