Thanks for asking such an interesting question.
The subject matter is actually quite a slippery one. What does it
actually mean for it to be 'difficult' to hire someone?
It can be difficult to hire, say, a Nobel Prize winning physicist.
There are only a handful of such people in the world, so the labor
pool is miniscule, and it can, indeed, be genuinely difficult to find
an available hire.
But for what is generally called unskilled labor (though try waiting
tables for a week, and then tell me how much skill is or isn't
involved), the labor market is enormous.
As a general rule, hiring such labor is fairly easy IF an employer
offers wages that the market will bear. McDonald's won't have any
problem at all hiring workers if they offer wages of $40/hr. At
$6.75/hr, though, they might run into problems.
So 'difficulty' in hiring generally has to be interpreted as offering
below-market wages. There are many reasons why immigrants will
sometimes take jobs at wages that few native Americans find agreeable.
Some of the information in the answer below touches on these reasons,
though a full examination of the issues obviously would be beyond the
scope of the question at hand.
Perhaps for the reasons above, there are no surveys or routine data
collections that directly measure 'difficulty' in hiring...the concept
is probably just too slippery to lead to meaningful statistics. But
(and as your question suggests) there are certainly inferences to be
had from available statistics on turnover: hirings, separations, job
openings, and the like. These data don't tend to be very
fine-grained, but there are still some useful observations to be had.
I've provided excerpts below from a number of articles and data
sources that cover various occupations where immigrant labor play a
large role, and that address the topics of rapid turnover, or of the
difficulty some businesses have in finding workers, starting with:
U.S. Department of Labor
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Food and Beverage Serving and Related Workers
...While employment growth will create many new jobs, the overwhelming
majority of openings will arise from the need to replace the high
proportion of workers who leave the occupations each year. There is
substantial movement into and out of these occupations because
education and training requirements are minimal and the predominance
of part-time jobs are attractive to people seeking a short-term source
of income rather than a career.
[This one's a bit dated, but has some valuable perspectives just the same]
Economic Research Service/USDA
Agricultural Outlook/October 1998
Hired Farm Labor in U.S. Agriculture
...Labor supply remains a persistent issue for farm employers who need
large amounts of nonfamily labor during particular periods of the
growing season, a need complicated by the unpredictable nature of
...The match between supply and demand for labor has always been a
critical issue in agriculture. When U.S. workers are not available to
meet the demand for hired farmwork, employers have traditionally
looked to foreign workers for temporary relief.
...Hispanics are only 3 percent of the hired farm workforce in the
Midwest, compared with 17 percent in the Northeast, 35 percent in the
South, and 67 percent in the West.
...Hired farmworkers continued to earn significantly less than most
other workers, influenced by their relatively low skill level.
[This report has very current statistics of the profound role of
foreign-born labor in agriculture]
US Department of Labor
The National Agricultural Workers Survey
Chapter 2: Demographics, Family Size, and Household Structure
Table 2.1 Average Age by Select Demographic Characteristics
All Foreign-born -- 77%
[that is, 77% of the farm workforce in the US is foreign-born labor]
Authorized Foreign-born -- 24%
Unauthorized Foreign-born -- 53%
Born in Mexico -- 75%
Another 7% of the farm workforce are US-born Hispanics.
[Cheap labor is also the mainstay of chicken and meat processing plants]
Meat-Processing Firms Attract Hispanic Workers to Rural America
AmberWaves June 2006
Hispanics are moving into the meat-processing labor force and helping
to meet demand for low-skill workers.
...Between 1980 and 2000, the Hispanic share of meat-processing
workers increased from under 10 percent to almost 30 percent, while
the Hispanic workforce itself became mostly foreign born...
...All of these conditions -- changing consumer preferences for more
convenient foods, industry consolidation and concentration, and
relocation to rural areas -- contributed to either a growing demand
for, or a shortage of, low-skilled workers in the meat-processing
industry during a period when overall manufacturing employment
declined in the U.S.
...stable or declining real wages from meat-processing employment made
it relatively less appealing than alternative occupations and careers
for an increasingly well-educated native-born workforce.
...Hispanic and foreign-born workers in meat processing follow a
pattern found in crop agriculture, forestry, construction, low-skilled
services, and many other nondurable and durable goods manufacturing
sectors. As educational attainment for the general population rises,
and industrial restructuring and greater employment options reduce the
relative attraction of low-skilled jobs, U.S. firms can be expected to
employ growing shares of Hispanic and foreign-born workers.
[This report takes an unusual point of view, not all of which goes to
the question you asked. Still, I thought it might be a useful read]
The Underground Labor Force Is Rising To The Surface
January 3, 2005
Bear Stearns Asset Management Inc.
Our research has identified significant evidence that the census
estimates of undocumented immigrants may be capturing as little as
half of the total undocumented population...we need not accept the
accuracy of the official census immigration statistics,
which are widely recognized as incomplete.
...Undocumented immigrants are gaining a larger share of the job
market, and hold approximately 12 to 15 million jobs in the United
States (8% of the employed)...Four to six million jobs have shifted to
the underground market, as small businesses take advantage of the
vulnerability of illegal residents.
...Illegal aliens offer below market labor costs and many employers
circumvent regulations to take advantage of the laissez faire
government enforcement process...
...The United States is simply hooked on cheap, illegal workers...
...Illegal immigration has been America?s way of competing with the
low-wage forces of Asia and Latin America, and deserves more credit
for the steroid-enhanced effect it has had on productivity, low
inflation, housing starts, and retail sales.
Finally, there is the jobs and turnover data from the Bureau of Labor
Statistics JOLTS database -- Job Openings and Labor Turnover. Here is
a recent quarterly release:
JOB OPENINGS AND LABOR TURNOVER: JULY 2006
If you skip down to Table 5, you'll begin to see the detailed data on job openings:
Table 5. Job openings levels and rates by industry and region, not
which indicates that 3.0% of the total private-sector (non farm) jobs
available in the US are unfilled at the moment...this is the overall
level of hiring demand, if you will.
Note that the rate hasn't changed bery much in the past few years.
The rate of job openings varies quite a bit between industries, with
some sectors that rely heavily on large numbers of unskilled laborers
showing very high demand. In particular:
Health care and social assistance?????? 4.0
Accommodations and food services????? 3.8
The percent of hires listed in Table 6 also gives an indication of the
industries most actively involved in bringing on new employees, and
again, there are some "unskilled labor" sectors doing a lot of hiring:
Table 6. Hires levels and rates by industry and region, not seasonally adjusted
Accommodations and food services?????6.6
And lastly, Table 7 shows total separations (broken out in later
tables to those quitting, those axed, and an 'other' category).
Again, industries with large separation rates can be viewed as having
an issue holding on to their hires:
Table 7. Total separations levels and rates by industry and region,
not seasonally adjusted
Accommodations and food services?????6.4
These data don't go directly to the issue of 'difficulty' in hiring,
but I suspect these are the most pertinent data you're likely to come
across regarding this issue.
I trust this information will fully meet your needs.
However, if there's anything more I can do for you, just let me know
by posting a Request for Clarification (before rating the answer,
please!) and I'll be happy to assist you further.
search strategy: Used BLS and JOLTS bookmarks, as well as Google
searches on combinations of terms:
Clarification of Answer by
14 Oct 2006 10:24 PDT
Here are some factoids, followed by a collection of references with
Hope this fits the bill, but if not, just let me know if there's
anything else you need on this:
*Immigrants account for at least:
--26% of the labor force in the construction industry
--34% in janitorial services
--24% in food preparation
--17% in personal care and service
*There is no relation between immigrant labor and job prospects for
native born Americans. In fact, in 27 states and Washington DC, there
is a positive correlation between increases in immigrant labor, and
rising job prospects for the native-born population.
*Almost 40 percent of all U.S. jobs do not require any post-secondary
education and three-quarters don?t require a college degree
*By 2008, the U.S. economy will produce an estimated 161 million jobs
-- to be filled by just 154 million American workers.
*About 40% of new jobs for Hispanic workers are in the construction industry.
*Since 2003, construction industry has hired more than a million new
Hispanic workers, with no impact on the ability of non-immigrant
workers to find construction jobs.
Immigrants at Mid-Decade
A Snapshot of America's Foreign-Born Population in 2005
Overall, immigrants make up about 15% of the workforce. But in
addition to being the dominant labor source in farming, they also:
--account for 26% of the labor force in the construction industry
--34% in janitorial services
--24% in food preparation
--17% in personal care and service
These numbers are probably conservative, since many undocumented
immigrants do not show up in formal surveys.
Meat-Processing Firms Attract Hispanic Workers
to Rural America
USA Today - Gone Tomorrow
The two above articles shed some light on the meat-packing industry:
--the meat-packing industry is one of the most dangerous occupations
in the US. More than 30% of the workforce is Hispanic, chiefly
Mexican Workers Needed for Essential Jobs Due to Labor Shortage
"Almost 40 percent of all U.S. jobs do not require any post-secondary
education and three-quarters don?t require a college degree,"
"Our country depends on immigrants -- especially those from Mexico --
to fill these jobs
...By 2008, the U.S. economy will produce an estimated 161 million
jobs -- to be filled by just 154 million American workers.
Construction, hotels, restaurants and other sectors that rely heavily
on unskilled and semi-skilled labor -- or "essential" workers -- will
be particularly hard hit by a shrinking U.S. labor pool.
Study Finds Immigrants Don't Take Jobs From Americans
...Wages for Latino workers also rose between the second quarters of
2005 and 2006, and at a faster rate than for other workers.
...The healthy job market for Latinos has been driven by the
construction industry. Construction added nearly a half a million jobs
alone between the second quarters of 2005 and 2006, the majority of
them filled by foreign-born Latinos. Since the jobs recovery began in
2003, nearly 1 million Latinos have found jobs in construction,
accounting for about 40% of all new jobs gained by Hispanics.
Growth in the Foreign-Born Workforce and Employment of the Native Born
The size of the foreign-born workforce is also unrelated to the
employment prospects for native-born workers. The relative youth and
low levels of education among foreign workers also appear to have no
bearing on the employment outcomes of native-born workers of similar
schooling and age.
Fourteen states with above-average growth in the foreign-born
population and above-average employment rates for native-born workers
Between 2000 and 2004, there was a positive correlation between the
increase in the foreign-born population and the employment of
native-born workers in 27 states and the District of Columbia.
Again, let me know if there's anything else you need here.