This article was originally published in The Hill on February 8, 2023.
There are over 11 million vacant jobs in the U.S. today, and fears of an impending recession continue to rock precarious markets. To avoid this worst-case scenario, the Biden administration must act now. Updating Schedule A–a list which designates what occupations have a shortage of “able, willing, qualified, and available” U.S. workers–would make it easier to recruit international workers and offer some respite to the struggling labor market.
The latest Department of Labor (DOL) statistics indicate that for every 100 unemployed Americans, there are more than 190 open jobs. This means that even if every unemployed American were immediately qualified and willing to fill one of the currently vacant positions, there would still be over 5.3 million unfilled jobs. This leads to an array of problems, like lower productivity, higher prices, supply chain delays, and worse consumer experiences.
Schedule A occupations benefit from expedited visa processing because DOL has determined there is a shortage of domestically available workers in those fields. But since it hasn’t been updated since 1991, it mainly benefits physical therapists and nurses and doesn’t reflect the current labor shortages affecting the rest of the economy. Updating the list is a crucial step in supporting business recovery through targeted recruitment of valuable immigrant workers and subsequently driving down inflation.
It’s important to note that updating Schedule A will not increase the number of available visas. Instead, it would enable DOL to proactively determine the types of businesses and occupations that most need foreign labor, ensuring that a larger share of our limited visas could be utilized to fill the most urgently-needed roles.