The Tight Labor Market Creates Opportunities for Americans
Businesses often complain that they cannot find enough workers to fill available jobs. Too often, the solution offered is to import tens of thousands of foreign workers. As a social policy, however, tight labor markets are an attractive phenomenon. Through market forces, they encourage employers to hire Americans who otherwise struggle to find meaningful employment.
A recent Wall Street Journal article highlights this, noting that “teenagers are coming to the rescue of business owners struggling to find enough workers in one of the hottest job markets in decades.” This is a good thing. The Journal notes that teen employment waned over the past 50 years, citing that automation eliminated some low-wage jobs and while increased immigration filled others.
For American teens, holding a job in high school is a great experience. It teaches them how to navigate the demands of bosses, how to interact with people they otherwise would never meet, and gives them disposable income. For those pursuing college, it even helps them stand out when they begin the application process.
But a tight labor market helps more than just teenagers. It opens doors to meaningful employment for many struggling Americans whose lives could change through the simple act of holding down a regular job and having a steady income. This includes scores of people that businesses would not hire in a loose labor market, including former convicts, recovered drug addicts, those at risk of becoming homeless, young single parents, and anyone else whose applications employers often dismiss.
As a social policy, tight labor markets do wonders for the lower classes of the American populace. Rather than trying to “fix” a tight labor market by importing tens or hundreds of thousands of foreign workers, our government should allow the tight labor market to continue.