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Why are immigrants needed in the U.S. when many Americans don’t have jobs?

The truth is, we don’t have a lot of people who are looking for work but can’t find it. What we do have are a lot of people who are retired from the workforce and can’t work. We have a lot of people who are too young to work. We have people who are stay at home parents. We have people who are disabled and unable to perform the types of jobs they might be qualified for. We have people who aren’t qualified for the types of jobs available. We have people living in areas where there aren’t many jobs who are unwilling or unable to relocate. And we have a LOT of people working for a paycheck that doesn’t cover their basic needs.

If you’re a Liberal, the answer to a lot of those problems requires some form of government intervention. Social security. Education. Child tax credits or childcare allowances. Disability benefits. Job retraining and relocation programs. Higher minimum wage and a functional safety net.

All of that stuff requires tax dollars. Which requires taxpayers. Which requires that a significant portion of our total population to be at work. Marco Rubio suggested recently that Americans need to have more kids. That is a silly solution, but at least recognizes the actual problem. We need more working taxpayers to support the aging population that can no longer work. It fixes the problem a few decades from now, but makes the problem worse in the meantime by adding children to the population who also consume government resources but cannot work. What we need is to increase the number of people who are prime working age, while not increasing those who cannot contribute to the labor pool.

But at the root of this question is a misunderstanding of economics: there aren’t a finite number of jobs in America. There are as many jobs in America as needed to meet demand. It’s that simple.

If we “import” more labor we will find ways to put people to work to meet the added demand. That’s just the way markets work. At the very least, all of those new immigrants need places to live. That means more jobs as landlords or as builders and as real estate agents. They need food. That means more crops grown and sold, more truckers transporting that food, more grocery store clerks, more fast food employees, more business at the corner store, more waiters and chefs. They buy clothes from Target or Walmart or wherever else. They buy a car from the local car dealership, maybe even a Ford or Chevy, which means more work for American autoworkers and steelworkers. They ride trains and busses. They take Ubers. Every person added to the U.S. population increases, slightly, the demand for all of the goods and services that they consume. The added demand almost perfectly offsets the one job that they take, assuming they spend their paycheck on goods and services locally, because every dollar they earn gets spent.

Look at it another way… the places in the U.S. that are mostly doing okay tend to be the ones where the population is growing. Population growth introduces new challenges in regards to housing policy and cost of living, but very rarely do we read headlines like “New York City job growth can’t keep up with population growth”. Such a thing is theoretically possible, but practically unheard of. As population grows, so does demand. As demand grows, so does production. As production grows, so does employment. What you do read about, fairly often, are towns dying out because their working age population is moving away. And those people are moving away to look for work… because there isn’t enough local demand for the goods or services that they can produce.

Our economy does have a whole bunch of genuine problems that need to be addressed. Immigrants aren’t really one of them, and in fact they may be exactly the solution to a few of them.