The administration argues the jobless benefits are an important lifeline for Americans who can’t find work because positions don’t exist. “Although the economy has been growing and we’ve been adding new jobs, the truth of the matter is ... that the financial crisis was so devastating that there’s still a lot of people who are struggling,” Obama said Jan. 7.
But paying them off is just a temporary solution. What they need are jobs. And Obama’s policies — demanding a higher minimum wage and imposing regulations that hurt economic growth or target whole industries — are keeping new job creation tepid, at best.
The U.S. economy added just 74,000 jobs in December. The unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent but that was because the labor force participation rate dropped to its lowest level since 1978. Meanwhile, the economy is still about 1.1 million jobs short of the 8.7 million lost in the Great Recession of 2008-09. Polls have consistently shown that the economy is the top concern for Americans. That explains Obama’s latest “pivot to jobs” in his promise that 2014 would be a “year of action” on the issue.
He can start by tempering his support for something that would make the labor picture even worse: His insistence on amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants, an action that would flood the job market with millions more low-skilled workers at a time when there aren’t enough jobs to go around. The time to encourage immigration is when the economy is expanding, not when it is stagnating.
Of the estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants, between 7 million and 8 million are believed to be employed. Most are unskilled or low-skilled. The Senate-passed immigration bill would give open access to the job market for all of them. A February 2013 study by the Center for Immigration Studies noted that amnesty would worsen the employment picture, especially for the lowest-skilled Americans.
“The contention that there is a general labor shortage that has to be satisfied by giving work authorization and/or citizenship to illegal immigrants rather than encouraging them to return to their home countries is entirely inconsistent with the available evidence,” the Center for Immigration Studies concluded in a February 2013 study on the effect of amnesty on the job market.
No one expects the illegal immigrants already here to return home, but amnesty will assuredly prompt them to stay, with or without jobs. And that simply doesn’t jibe with Obama’s desire to act to put Americans back to work. One can only hope he doesn’t promise that “if you have a job you want to keep, you can keep it. Period.”