It was eye opening to learn a few weeks ago that Greenville’s largest employer, L3Harris Technologies, has roughly 600 job openings.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be that surprising, however, as industries across the board have struggled to find qualified employees. The labor shortage is evident at restaurants and hospitality, health care, transportation, education, manufacturing, retail as well as other economic sectors.
So while Greenville is attracting new industries to town such as dairy products manufacturer HP Hood (up to 225 jobs initially and as many as 400 in the future) and potentially the plastic products maker ORBIS, the question on our minds is where will all the employees come from?
According to a recent article from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, new data shows the nation’s worker shortage is getting worse instead of better. Job openings nationwide reached a record high of 11.5 million in March, and the country now has 5.6 million more open jobs than people looking for work.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley put it this way: “We hear from businesses every day that the worker shortage is their top challenge, and it’s impacting the country’s ability to ease supply chain disruptions, get inflation under control and continue our economic recovery. It’s past time for Congress to act on solutions like modernizing our broken immigration system and helping expand affordable childcare options to help fill our 11.5 million open jobs.”
Bradley is on point. Our country’s damaged immigration system prevents many skilled and educated foreign workers from legally entering the United States. Despite the economic benefits derived from legal immigration or guest workers programs, politicians on both sides of the aisle are eager to keep immigration a wedge issue. A challenge that requires thoughtfulness, reason and compromise instead is defined by bluster, blame and demagoguery as the pols seek to inflame the voting blocks that keep them in power.
Given the state of today’s political discourse in America, no one should be deluded into thinking immigration or any other tough challenge facing the nation will be addressed anytime soon. In all but a few circumstances, the modern politician places self-interest over the national interest almost every time.
An improved immigration system alone won’t solve the labor shortages at L3Harris or any other Hunt County business. Immigration is just one piece of a larger, complex economic puzzle. Still, the failure of Congress to even address immigration is symptomatic of a larger political malaise in the United States – one that tears at our society and depresses our economic potential.