Wasting no time, the editors of the Wall Street Journal have put in their oar for open borders:
Even before the hurricanes, construction firms around the U.S. reported trouble finding enough workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 225,000 construction job openings in June, up 30% in the last year and 125% since 2012. According to a survey this month by the Associated General Contractors of America, 86% of firms nationwide anticipate hiring workers in the next year.
The worker shortage is especially acute in fast-growing metro areas in the South such as Atlanta, Houston and Miami. In Texas, 69% of contractors said they struggled to fill positions. About 60% of contractors in the South are having trouble finding carpenters and concrete workers while half need more day laborers.
Older construction workers have left the workforce since the last housing boom. About a third moved to higher-paying industries such as energy and manufacturing. Fewer young men are pursuing the trades or a vocational education, and some can’t pass a drug test.
Big Labor and the restrictionist right say employers simply need to increase wages. But in Texas 57% of contractors reported increasing base pay while a quarter offered bonuses—and they’re still struggling to recruit workers. Between 2013 and 2016, the base pay for a day laborer increased 30% in Houston. Carpenters there earn about $25 an hour, 55% more than three years ago. Large contractors with government contracts can perhaps pay more. But small firms then get out-competed for workers.
Let’s put that in a little perspective. Real wages in construction in the United States are lower than they were 45 years ago:
That decline was mostly due to workers imported from abroad, almost entirely illegally. Do I need to produce evidence that wages in big banks have continued to increase right through the Great Recession despite their having created it? Over time one becomes accustomed to an ever-growing stream of workers who can be paid below what used to be the ordinary expected wage. It’s a great business model as long as the stream continues.
And let’s not talk about the secondary effects. The depressing of wages more generally. The higher spending for roads, schools, sewers, healthcare and so on than would otherwise have been the case.
Meanwhile, the black youth unemployment rate in Houston hovers at around 20%. Sounds like there are plenty of workers available to me.