Cities all over the United States are currently facing a shortage of immigrants as a result of the recent pandemic. This comes as the country faces one of the biggest economic downturns in decades, largely influenced by the immigration shortage.
What the Immigration Shortage Means for the Country
Urban areas throughout the country help the American economy flourish, and one of the principal contributors to American cities is the immigrant population. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented immigrants, including those on H-1B visas, from entering the workforce and contributing to urban economies.
Following the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Trump Administration’s policies placed certain bottlenecks and restrictions on the ability to recruit highly-skilled foreign workers. These restrictions could remain in place even after the pandemic subsides and the country returns to a state of normality. The limits placed on immigrant workers could also hinder the country’s ability to economically recover and maintain a competitive edge.
Effects on the Urban Economy
A recent Axios report from Stef Knight details the effects of the pandemic on immigration and how the sudden drop in immigration impacted New York City.
In January, the U.S. issued over 61,000 skilled visas. By April, that number had dwindled to 494, with little to no change through July. New York’s approximately 3.1 million immigrants contribute around $232 billion to the city’s GDP and account for over half of NYC’s business owners. However, the immigrant population began declining prior to the pandemic as a result of harsher restrictions placed on immigrants, including individuals with business non-immigrant visas.
Research at Axios also determined that for New York to recover from the shortage of immigrants and the economic downturn, young professionals and creatives will need to play a key role in the improvement. Specifically, younger professionals will be coming into the city while older, wealthier individuals move out. As young individuals coming into the city need less space, landlords will continue to fill apartments and the city’s population will continue to increase, allowing the economy to begin to rebound. However, historically many young new citizens have been immigrants. Due to the immigration restrictions, the most probable source of potential newcomers is currently uncertain.
It’s unknown at this time precisely how long the current immigrant restrictions will last, but they could continue long after the pandemic wanes.