American businesses are feeling the impact of the current labor shortage as they struggle to hire amid a record high wave of people quitting — and Trump-era immigration policies could be to blame.

Roughly 3 million fewer people in the US are working or looking for work than in February 2020, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics labor force participation rate. That’s the labor shortage in a nutshell.

But what if we told you that problem could be cut down to just a third of its size by going back to a pre-Donald Trump legal regime?

The current dearth of workers is mirrored by the number of working-age adults who would have lived in the United States if pre-Trump immigration trends persisted, according to 2020 US Census data.

Former President Donald Trump’s administration was more restrictive to immigration than any other in recent history, making good on Trump’s rhetoric antagonizing immigrants of color, specifically undocumented and Latinx immigrants. According to the Migration Policy Institute, the Trump administration undertook over 400 executive actions on immigration.

We estimate that in all, about 2 million of America’s missing workers are immigrants who never came to the US.

The Census Bureau estimates that about 1.07 million people immigrated on net to the US in 2016, while only about 480,000 people immigrated in 2020.

Between 2011 and 2016, the US was gaining an additional 54,000 net immigrants each year. But that began to turn around, with net international migration declining each year between 2017 and 2020.

Trump-era policies are responsible for the missing workers 

As it turns out, industries facing labor shortages — truck drivers and construction workers, namely — would have benefited from immigrant workers had Trump-era policies not prevented them from entering the US.

Construction, transportation and warehousing, accommodation and hospitality businesses, and personal service businesses like salons and dry cleaners are the four industries currently facing the worst labor shortages, the pro-immigration think tank New American Economy found last month for a Vox investigation.


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