American Immigration Policy, a Reappraisal

By William S. Bernard; Carolyn Zeleny et al. | Go to book overview

4
Economic Effects of Immigration II

Immigration and Unemployment

The history of the United States shows that immigration, or the excess labor supply it might create, has never proved a substantial factor in producing unemployment. Expanding industry has had no difficulty in absorbing immigrant workers. The causes of unemployment are rather to be found in maladjustments of our economic system and are rooted chiefly in the fluctuations of the business cycle. No economist would challenge the conclusion that the unemployment problem would not be solved by further restricting immigration or by stopping it altogether.

The causes of unemployment have been the subject of many painstaking studies and detailed analyses. These studies make clear that unemployment in our country is the result of seasonal and cyclical variations in the general demand for labor, as well as of variations in the demands of individual employers. Seasonal demands for workers fluctuate widely in the manufacturing industries as well as in agriculture, as is shown by production and employment data for specific industries. Our industrial system operates on the assumption of an available labor supply to meet its peak periods of employment.

Recurring severe periods of unemployment, in this as in other industrialized nations operating under a system of free enterprise, find their roots in the nature of the business cycle. According to economists, the cycle and the periods of unemployment which it brings are the result of such factors as over-expansion of production

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