Reply To: Surge of Migrants Heading North Has Chicago, New York at a ‘Breaking Point’

  • outdoorsguy

    January 3, 2024 at 9:33 am

    Florida’s labor shortage spans wide range of industries

    Hardest hit are industries such as construction, restaurants, hotels, roofing, landscaping and farming, which have relied on citizens and undocumented migrant workers.

    “We’re hiring” banners hang above grocery stores in nearly every community in Florida. “Help wanted” signs are taped to storefronts and posted on hundreds of online job boards. Florida’s unemployment rate is nearing a record low, even as the state population grows.

    “Get used to it,” said Ron Hetrick, who lives in St. Johns County, south of Jacksonville. He’s a senior labor economist at the labor market analytics firm Lightcast.

    This is Florida’s new normal, and the results will translate into competitive wages, longer waits for professional and domestic services and higher costs of living — for everyone.

    Florida is unlike many other states because of its fast growth, aging population and dependence on migrants for both skilled and unskilled labor, Hetrick said.

    But a beefed-up state law that attempts to crack down on labor from immigrants without permanent legal status is exacerbating the deep hole in the workforce that may take years to close.

    “What makes Florida unique is that people are moving from all over the country, but the unemployment rate is not going up — it’s going down or holding a low level,” Hetrick explained.

    According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which is updating its 2021 Workforce Needs Study, 73% of job creators surveyed in Florida reported challenges in recruiting qualified candidates, and more than 58% reported they anticipate a need for training and “up-skilling” current employees.

    Hardest hit are industries such as construction, restaurants, hotels, roofing, landscaping and agriculture, which traditionally have relied on both citizens and migrant workers without permanent legal status. They have hit a new hurdle with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent crackdown on immigrant workers in Florida who lack permanent legal status.

    At DeSantis’ urging, legislators passed a package of immigration-related measures this year that attempt to keep immigrants without permanent legal status from coming into the state and make it more difficult for those living here to stay.

    Dependence on migrant labor

    Greg Batista, founder and owner of G. Batista Engineering & Construction, has seen the impact of the new laws firsthand. He specializes in condo development in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and employs about 50 people.

    “The immediate impact is that we’ve got four or five ongoing construction jobs at this moment and fewer people to do the jobs,” he said. “The job that you told the owner was going to take five months is now going to take 10 months.”

    He attributes much of the problem to the exodus of construction workers from Florida.

    “They’re just picking up and leaving to a state where they’re more friendly towards migrants, where they don’t have to be looking over their shoulder every 10 seconds and saying, ‘Look, I’m going … to be deported, going to go to jail, or I’m going to be fined,’” he said.

    According to a 2021 analysis of U.S. Census data by the policy research and polling firm KFF, immigrant workers lacking permanent legal status in Florida made up 11% of the state’s workforce, including 37% of all agriculture workers, 23% of construction workers, 14% of service workers and 14% of transportation workers.

    In Miami-Dade County, the numbers are even higher: 65% of the county’s employed labor force are immigrants, according to the county’s Office of New Americans.