A Crucial Piece of the Puzzle

Strong demand for less-skilled workers is being undermined by a declining number of young people willing and able to work less-skilled jobs, according to a report, “A Crucial Piece of the Puzzle: Demographic Change and Why Immigrants are Needed to Fill America’s Less-Skilled Labor Gap.” The report, which was released during a Capitol Hill briefing sponsored by New American Economy and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, reveals that although current immigration rates are helping to offset this growing labor gap, the U.S. does not have the workforce necessary to address the looming labor deficit.

Key findings of the report include:

  • America has a declining number of young people willing and able to work less-skilled jobs. Between 1990 and 2010 the number of less-skilled, young, U.S.-born Americans (aged 25-44) declined by almost 12.3 million.
  • The decline in the less-skilled, young population has been particularly pronounced among women. Almost two thirds of the decline in the number of young, less-skilled, U.S.-born individuals can be explained by a decrease in the number of less-skilled women in America.
  • The demand for less-skilled workers is strong and growing. According to the U.S. Census, between 1990 and 2010, the number of jobs for less-skilled workers in the U.S. economy remained constant at 45.7 million. And in the coming years, less-skilled employment is expected to grow: The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 63 percent of the new jobs created between 2008 and 2018 will require a high school degree or less. 
  • Second generation immigrants have helped offset some of these labor gaps.  Between 1995 and 2010, while the number of less-skilled, young, American-born individuals overall declined, the number of second-generation immigrants in that category grew by more than 680,000.
  • We do not admit a sufficient number of immigrants to offset the looming workforce deficit of less-skilled workers.  Between 1990 and 2010, when the number of young, U.S.-born, less-skilled individuals declined by almost 12.3 million, only 3.9 million young immigrants arrived in the country to replace them.

This report was prepared for the Partnership for a New American Economy by Frank D. Bean, Ph.D. and, Susan K. Brown, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine; and James D. Bachmeier, Ph.D., Temple University.

Download the full report (PDF).

Read the press release.

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