New Report Confirms Demand for High-Skilled Foreign Workers Continues Despite COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on Labor Market and Economy

Envoy Global and New American Economy (NAE) released a new report showing that despite the economic upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic, there remains a shortage of highly skilled workers to meet the persistent demand of American employers. While many businesses are seeking to expand, the United States’ outdated immigration system and continued travel restrictions may prolong and exacerbate the shortage of high-skilled workers, hindering a fast and successful economic recovery. Failure to enable employers to fill critical workforce gaps hampers their ability to fulfill their economic potential, stymieing economic growth nationwide. These findings support the argument that more responsive employment-based immigration policies may help the U.S. economy bounce back faster and more robustly from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The report, How Has Demand in Sectors Dependent on Specialty Skills Changed Due to COVID-19? compares data from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on the number of Labor Condition Applications (LCA) filed for H-1B specialty workers; Burning Glass Technologies’ Labor Insights Database based on public job postings; Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); and U.S. Census data.

Key findings include:

  • Despite the economic upheaval of the pandemic, there remains a shortage of highly skilled workers to meet the persistent demand of employers.
  • Demand for computer-related workers is stable, and even growing. In fact, computer-related jobs made up 69.6% of all foreign labor requests in FY2020, a slight increase from FY2019 despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Demand for computer-related occupations is growing and outpacing supply. In 2019, the unemployment rate for computer- and mathematics-related occupations was 2.3%. By 2020, it had only increased by 0.7 percentage points, to 3.0%. By March 2021, the unemployment rate was 1.9% – lower than it was before the pandemic.
  • Employers’ ability to fill these roles will be critical to America’s long-term economic recovery. If businesses cannot find enough workers to fill technical and specialized roles that are often critical to their continued growth and innovation, U.S. companies may be hamstrung in their capacity to expand and operate efficiently.

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“This report comes at a time when employers are in critical need of filling highly-skilled roles amid an ever-growing competitive labor market,” said Andrew Lim, Director of Quantitative Research at NAE. “Our findings highlight the critical shortage of highly skilled workers to meet the persistent demand of employers in the U.S. – specifically in computer-related and professional services industries. Without foreign nationals to fill technical and specialized roles that are critical to companies’ continued growth, the shortage could have a consequential impact on the country’s long-term economic recovery.”

“We know that foreign national talent plays an essential role in filling specialized occupations and decreasing the labor shortage across the U.S.,” said Richard Burke, CEO at Envoy Global. “While many businesses have sought to expand their foreign national workforce, continued travel restrictions on top of an outdated immigration system may in fact prolong and exacerbate the shortage of high-skilled workers. Our research brief with NAE suggests that immediate and smarter policies around employment-based immigration is critical and needed among U.S. employers to source the talent they need to continually innovate, and for the U.S. to make a robust recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and future economic disruptions and crises.”

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