Do We Really Have a “Labor Shortage” in the U.S., or Are We Manufacturing One?

It seems like there are three kinds of jobs in America: Those that Americans won’t do, those that Americans can’t do, and those that there aren’t enough Americans to do.

Perpetually high on the list of jobs for which there is a claimed shortage of workers is nursing. In one of the countless news reports about the “acute shortage” of nurses in the United States, a 2016 Atlantic article notes, “America’s 3 million nurses make up the largest segment of the health-care workforce in the U.S., and nursing is currently one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country. Despite that growth, demand is outpacing supply. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.2 million vacancies will emerge for registered nurses between 2014 and 2022.”

To fill this so-called void, American health care institutions have been turning to foreign nurses. About 15 percent of nurses currently work in the U.S. are foreign born, and the health care industry is constantly clamoring for more.

So, if we are expecting 1.2 million vacancies in the coming years, there must be a good reason. Is it because:

  1. There aren’t enough Americans who are educationally qualified to enter nursing programs?
  2. There aren’t enough qualified Americans who want to be nurses?
  3. Eager, qualified nursing school applicants are being turned away in droves?

Turns out the answer is C. According to CNN, U.S. nursing schools are cutting admissions and rejecting record numbers of qualified applicants. In 2017, nursing schools in the United States rejected 56,000 applicants who met all the qualifications for admission. And, given that the average salary for a nurse practitioner is $97,000 a year, there are likely many, many more qualified Americans who would consider a career in nursing. But rather than expanding the capacity to train nurses in the United States, schools are reducing the number of slots in nursing programs.

The only logical conclusion that can be drawn from these facts is that the health care industry would rather spend money lobbying for more foreign nurses than invest in training Americans to fill these jobs. Until not that long ago, many hospitals had their own nursing training programs but decided to eliminate them as cost-cutting measures.

It would not be a stretch to insinuate that nursing is not the only sector of the U.S. economy in which there is a labor shortage because we have deliberately created one for the purpose of bringing in foreign workers.

Ira Mehlman: Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.