It’s not too early to start considering how President Obama’s Immigration Order will impact California job markets. In fact, this past weekend has seen several commentators weigh in already, including Chapman University faculty member (and occasional Fox & Hounds contributor) Joel Kotkin, and USC faculty member Manual Pastor.
Like nearly all employment issues in California, ground zero should be our state’s Workforce Investment Board system (WIB). It is among these Boards that the issues will best be clarified and policies developed. Last week, I had occasion to speak with several of our Valley WIB directors, including Blake Konczal of Fresno, Adam Peck of Tulare and Daniel Smith of Kern. They already are on top of the subject and in touch with employers and worker organizations.
Agriculture is only one of the sectors likely to be impacted, but it is potentially a main one. The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, involved the largest previous legalization. In California, it resulted particularly in movement of workers from agriculture to higher-paying jobs in the service, retail, construction, warehousing and manufacturing sectors, which were expanding in our state in the late 1980s and 1990s.
This Immigration Order is also coming at a time of expansion of these sectors. Last Friday’s most recent job California numbers show construction continuing to rebound up to 678,600 jobs statewide (a gain of 34,000 over the year); Trade Transportation and Utilities reaching 2.8 million jobs (a gain of 46,000 jobs over the year) and even manufacturing reaching 1.2 million jobs (a gain of 3600 over the year). At the same time, employers report that in these sectors and others, the competition remains significant for most jobs that do not require college degrees or above.
I’ll have more to say on the potential impacts of the Immigration Order and the options for our local and state government in coming weeks. Among issues, we will consider whether the Immigration Order combined with the drought and mechanization options may lead to the last farmworker left in California.