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AILA Press Release: Economic Outlook Shows Vital Need for Immigrants in U.S. Economy

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 03082956 (posted Aug. 29, 2003)"

American Immigration Lawyers Association

For Immediate Release
Contact:  Marshall Fitz
(202) 216-2437
mfitz@aila.org

August 27, 2003

Economic Outlook Shows Vital Need for Immigrants in U.S. Economy

A new report examining key economic data and studies concludes that “Immigrants are a key part of the U.S. economy and will become an increasingly important element in America’s economic growth and development in the future.” The report by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) notes that “Middle-to longer-term projections show a significant need to fill new jobs at all levels of the skill spectrum, with new immigrants playing a vital role in filling these jobs.” It points out that “Over the next two decades, immigrants will be an essential element of labor force growth in American manufacturing and service sectors, as well as the U.S. economy as a whole.  Today, immigrants continue to fill niches in the labor market, create jobs through entrepreneurship and consumer spending, and aid economic growth and the funding of the baby boom generation’s retirement.”

Commenting on the report, AILA President Palma Yanni said, “This study helps demonstrate the need for comprehensive immigration reform that would address the reality of the marketplace and the future labor force needs of the U.S. economy and American employers.”

The key findings of the report:

  • Contrary to concerns about the disappearance of lower-skilled jobs, between 2000 and 2010, more than 33 million new job openings will be created in the United States that require only little or moderate training, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Department of Labor). This growth will represent 58 percent of all new job openings.

  • Collectively, these millions of jobs requiring minimal training and education will be created in restaurants, construction, retail, trucking, hospital care and other fields by 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • Despite current difficulties in manufacturing, U.S. manufacturing will face significant problems in the future finding the workers needed to help America grow and prosper. “Demographic reality tells us that a seasoned manufacturing workforce will soon be passing from the scene, a process greatly accelerated by the current manufacturing slump. Yet a new generation of skilled workers is not at hand to replace these retiring baby boomers once the economy returns to solid growth,” according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and Deloitte & Touche.

  • The NAM-Deloitte & Touche report concluded that, in the medium-term, immigration will be the primary source of new skilled workers for manufacturing.  “[There] is a projected need for 10 million new skilled workers by 2020.” The report warns that an inadequate labor force in manufacturing “could foreshadow a significant decrease in manufacturing’s competitiveness, accelerate the transfer of American productive capacity and well-paid manufacturing jobs overseas – and deliver a decisive blow to the nation’s long-term economic prospects.”

  • The Employment Policy Foundation warns of serious ramifications if steps are not taken to address future employment needs. “Unless these high levels of labor and skills shortage can be averted, the United States will be unable to maintain its historic rate of economic growth.” The Employment Policy Foundation goes on to state: “Failure to close the labor supply gap will lower gross domestic product (GDP) growth from its projected levels by at least 3 percent in 10 years and at least 17 percent in 30 years. The result will be lower average per capita income of $47,000 in 30 years instead of $57,000 if current rates of GDP growth are maintained.”

  • These and related studies are bolstered by the experience of the 1990s, which showed that immigrants were crucial to job and labor force growth in the 1990s. “The so-called “New Economy” of the U.S. in the 1990s was overwhelmingly dependent on male immigrant workers for its employment growth,” according to research by the Business Roundtable and Northeastern University.  Despite the recent downturn in the economy, which is not related to immigration, immigrants remain a key component of employment and economic growth.

  • The authors of the Business Roundtable-Northeastern University study note that “a fairly high fraction” of the new immigrant workers, particularly those in jobs requiring fewer skills, were undocumented immigrants. This fact undermines the allegations of those who say that undocumented immigrants cause economic problems, as opposed to those who direct such criticism at the lack of an effective immigration system to bring such workers into the country through legal channels. “Our national immigration policies have largely been a failure in reducing undocumented immigration, and our work force needs are being met by a group of workers who possess few rights,” according to the Business Roundtable-Northeastern University study.

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Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides its Members with continuing legal education, information, and professional services. AILA advocates before Congress and the Administration and provides liaison with the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.

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