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Immigration's role in America's labor shortage

America's labor shortage crisis has been exacerbated by immigration restrictions that have reduced the number of both skilled and unskilled workers.

Between the lines: Most of the labor scarcity blame has been aimed at expanded unemployment benefits, hard-to-find child care and low wages. But there is a fourth leg to the stool.


By the numbers: Immigrant and non-immigrant visas issued during the year ended October 2020 were down by nearly five million, or 54%, from 2019.

  • 572,587 fewer people received temporary or permanent worker visas (H, L, O, P, Q, J, and E) in 2020, a 44% drop from 1.3 million in 2019.
  • The most significant drop-offs were for J and Q visas, for work- and study-based programs like au pairs, camp counselors and cultural exchange. Those were down 68% and 63%, respectively.
  • H-visas for specialty work,temporary agricultural and non-agricultural work fell by the smallest percentage (24%).

For context: The U.S. had a 6% job opening rate in April, with the highest rates of 11.6% rate in arts, entertainment and recreation, 10.1% in leisure and hospitality, and a 9.9% rate in accommodation and food services — which combined works out to over 3.1 million unfilled jobs.

Timeline: Almost all of this decrease can be tied to Trump administration decisions to close legal immigration avenues in the pandemic's early months, while also tightening rules and enforcement of undocumented immigration.

  • Freezes were put on green card applications in April, and most temporary work visas were halted in June.
  • President Biden reversed the green card decision and recently let the worker visa ban lapse.
  • But it will take time for the immigrant worker pool to be refilled, particularly as potential immigrants from certain countries remain blocked due to COVID-related health concerns. Moreover, many U.S. embassies and consulates continue to face massive backlogs of visa applications, often without enough resources to resume regular operations.

What they're saying: E.J. Dean, the third-generation owner of New England carnival operator Fiesta Shows, says that he's had to limit the number of rides offered this season because he's been unable to secure his typical supply of temporary workers from overseas (particularly from South Africa).

  • "I'm trying to get people locally, but I've never seen things so tight," Dean explains. "It’s not even about the pay. People set up interviews and then they don't show up for them."
  • Jon Baselice, VP of immigration policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, adds: “COVID-related travel restrictions continue to prevent many employers from meeting their workforce needs and they are causing significant business disruptions for many companies, especially smaller seasonal businesses across the country that are dealing with acute workforce shortfalls.”

The bottom line: The U.S. economy cannot fully recover from the pandemic if employers can't find enough employees.

Reading the tea leaves ahead of Boston's historic mayoral race

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Why it matters: The face of Democratic Party politics has changed, with more women and people of color running and winning races. As high-profile races like Boston's — and New York's — attract multiple people of color in a primary, some candidates say that allows for more ideological diversity, as well.

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Elite trans athletes decry youth sports bans

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The big picture: Lawmakers in more than half of the states have considered such bans, and they have been signed into law in at least eight states, though legal challenges remain.

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The case for global warming realism, rather than panic

It’s getting harder and harder to communicate the two essential realities of human-caused climate change: that our failure to slow and eventually stop it is contributing to devastating human suffering all over the world, and that it’s not too late to act.

The big picture: Experts have long told climate communicators —including scientists, journalists and politicians — that disaster porn immobilizes people, leaving them cowering in a corner. You've got to give them a sense of hope, the research shows.

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Simone Biles will compete in her final Olympic event

Simone Biles will compete in the Olympic individual balance beam final, her last event of the Tokyo Games, USA Gymnastics announced Monday.

What's happening: "We are so excited to confirm that you will see two U.S. athletes in the balance beam final tomorrow — Suni Lee AND Simone Biles!! Can’t wait to watch you both!" USA Gymnastics tweeted.

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In photos: Tokyo Olympics day 10 highlights

Day 10 of the Tokyo Olympic Games saw Puerto Rico bag its first-ever track gold medal when Jasmine Camacho-Quinn beat American world record holder Kendra Harrison to win the women’s 100-meter hurdles Monday.

The big picture: There was better news for Team USA in the basketball, where the women's national team beat France 93-82 — meaning the Americans are entering the medal round undefeated as they go for yet another gold, Axios' Ina Fried reports from Tokyo. France still advanced to the quarterfinals as well.

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Belarus sprinter who sought refuge in Tokyo "safe" with Japanese authorities, IOC says

Belarus' Olympian Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who's refusing orders to return home, is in the care of Japanese authorities and the UN refugee agency is now involved in her case, an International Olympic Committee official told reporters Monday.

Driving the news: The sprinter said she wouldn't obey orders and board a flight home after being taken to Tokyo's s Haneda airport by team officials Sunday following her criticism of Belarusian coaches, per Reuters. She spent the night in an airport hotel.

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Olympic sprint champ Jacobs says reconnecting with U.S. father "gave me the desire to win"

Italy's surprise 100-meters Olympic gold medalist Lamont Marcell Jacobs opened up Sunday about how reconnecting with his American father over the past year has helped spur him on.

What he's saying: The Texas-born sprinter told reporters after setting a European record of 9.80 seconds to win gold in Sunday's event that getting back in touch with his father "gave me the desire, the speed, that something more that helped me being here and win the Olympics."

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