Why Aren’t Wages Rising at the Bottom?

One way in which I could critique the editors of the Washington Post’s most recent editorial in favor of unlimited immigration of unskilled workers from Mexico and Central America would be to point out the logical fallacies it contains, all aligned in the same direction. Tertium non datur, non sequitur, and appeal to unnamed authority all come to mind.

However, rather than that, consider this passage:

That stopgap is symptomatic of what has become a broader worker shortage across the U.S. economy, which faces a shrinking native-born labor force as baby boomers retire at a rate of 10,000 daily , unemployment reaches historically low levels, and immigration continues to dwindle from Mexico, a traditional source of cheap documented and undocumented employees. In March, the Labor Department reported there were 7.6 million unfilled jobs and just 6.5 million unemployed people, marking 12 straight months during which job openings have exceeded job seekers.

The labor shortage is sapping growth as well as state and municipal revenue. Small businesses and major corporations have sounded the alarm as the delivery of goods is delayed by a drastic shortage of truckers, and housing prices in some markets are driven up by an inadequate supply of construction workers. Mr. Trump’s admission Friday that he will consider transporting new migrants to so-called sanctuary cities as a means of punishing those cities is probably an empty threat given the scheme’s blatant illegality. But if he were to fulfill the threat, he might do some of the cities an unintentional favor by providing them with badly needed workers.

The deficit is particularly acute in lower-wage jobs, as more and more Americans attend college and are reluctant to take positions in skilled trades and other jobs requiring manual labor.

Why aren’t wages rising for these workers? I think that’s the question that the editors need to address.

The wages of those without college degrees have been declining for decades. There’s plenty of evidence that not merely a continuing supply but the expectation of a continuing supply of unskilled workers reduces the wages of other unskilled workers. What do the editors plan to do about the situation of unskilled workers already here? Increasing the minimum wage will help some at the expense of others.

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