James Pethokoukis (who is usually one of my favorite bloggers) points to this study which argues that the US usually has a shortage of low-skill labor despite a thirty year decline in wages for low-skill workers. It turns out that even though the unemployment rate of workers with less than a high school diploma is eleven percent and that people in this sector of the labor market have experienced a long-term decline in labor force participation, we still need more low-skill workers.
The study explains that the current population of low-skill workers are more likely to be sick, more likely to have experienced problems with substance abuse and more likely to have had contact with the criminal justice system. Employers are not especially likely to want to hire them. They can’t cut it. They can’t be convinced to take personal responsibility and care for their own lives. Many low-skill citizens and current residents also don’t live near available low-skill work. The obvious solution to this geographic mismatch is to bring in low-skill workers from abroad.
One alternative would be for rising wages for low-skill workers in the nontradable sector to pull people who are marginally attached to the labor market into steady work and maybe even more stable family relationships. That’s just crazy talk. It is obviously preferable to bring in low-skill guest workers who would have little or no access to the American welfare state and who would face deportation if they endured a lengthy spell of unemployment. So we get one underclass that is cut off from the labor market and another one with little or no bargaining power – all lest wages rise in a sector of the economy where they have been declining for over a generation (and where the wage declines have coincided with family disruption.)
This is madness.