E-Verify, Tight Labor Markets, Wage Increases: That’s Good News

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By Ric Oberlink

Ric Oberlink is the Executive Director of CAPS

June 4, 2018
The unemployment rate has fallen to 3.8%, the lowest since 2000, and the black unemployment rate fell to 5.9%, the lowest rate since the government started keeping figures in 1972. That is good news, of course, and even better news is that it may finally spur some wage increases for workers, especially low-income workers.

Between 1979 and 2016, pay adjusted for inflation for the bottom fifth of American workers hardly rose at all. Now there are some hints that may be changing. HR Dive reports, “Summer shifts and wages are up as employers compete for talent.” The Washington Post relates the woeful tale of a South Carolina restaurateur who considers the situation a disaster, “He has had to raise wages to attract and keep workers. Dishwashers earn $13 an hour instead of the $10 they earned a couple of years ago.” How awful!

One of the factors, according to the Post article, is that E-Verify works:
 
E-Verify has proved effective at keeping immigrants who are in the country illegally from taking American jobs. In Arizona, which pioneered the mandatory checks in 2008 the number of unauthorized workers dropped 33 percent below what was projected without the requirement…. The labor shortage in industries that most depend upon undocumented workers — such as agriculture, construction and hospitality — is driving up wages….

The overall impact of immigration on the economy is difficult to ascertain and gives rise to conflicting conclusions and competing claims. It is probably fair to say that both sides of the debate, but especially the immigration enthusiasts, overstate their assertions. The U.S. GDP is $20 trillion; immigration is the tail on the dog of the economy, not vice-versa.

What is clear is that the large-scale immigration of the last couple of decades has hurt low-wage workers. Mandatory E-verify is part of the remedy for helping America’s working poor and lower middle-class. That’s one more reason the House should pass Goodlatte’s HR 4760 when it considers immigration legislation this month.
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