SB 2142: Legal Labor
GNDC likes bills that solve problems. AND, when the bill solves a workforce problem, we don’t just like them… we love them. Full out adoration. We love SB 2142 – which establishes an Office of Legal Immigration within the ND Dept. of Commerce.
Sometime cool things have a way of cycling back – like bell bottoms, caboodles, or farm style sinks, the Office of Immigration isn’t a new concept for ND. The concept dates back to 1874 and was further fortified in 1915 but was eliminated in 1933 for various reasons including finance and population decline. This reinvented office would provide statewide strategies to support business in recruiting and retaining legal foreign labor – an approach toward addressing our current workforce situation. We love when policies are proactive in their approach to help businesses across the state.
Lawfully-authorized, legal immigration is a big issue in our nation. GNDC has a policy objective relevant to this audience – “Support workforce readiness opportunities for transitioning populations.” More than 2 million college-educated immigrants in the workforce are either unemployed or underemployed, representing 17% of the total college educated workforce in the US. Unemployment and underemployment of this group results in approximately $39.4 billion in foregone earnings and $10.2 billion in unrealized tax revenues annually. Additionally, more than 44.9 million legal immigrants live in the US (13.7% of total population).
Let’s bring this home – back to ND. Currently our unemployment rate is 2.1% and our labor participation rate of 69%. We are constantly among the top participating states and consistently ranked lowest for unemployment, further showcasing our workforce situation. “Help Wanted” signs are no longer a novel sighting, it’s the norm. Only 4% of workers in the ND labor force are immigrants. Employers across our state are utilizing resources to access this untapped, available labor pool and navigating the waters can be difficult. GNDC would like to have someone here, at the state level, help all employers further attract and retain this talent where appropriate. Currently 17 states already have established a similar department, shoring up and developing their businesses with an obtainable and ready workforce.
In GNDC’s recent business climate survey conducted by the NDSU Challey Institute, 62.6% of respondents indicated that attracting and retaining qualified workers is the most important factor negatively affecting their organization’s performance. This could be a game changer for our business community.
When everybody wins, why wouldn’t we want that?