When it comes to U.S. immigration policy, there’s more talk than action, said Conerly, principal for Conerly Consulting LLC, Lake Oswego, Ore.
President Donald Trump has sought to tighten security on the Southern border, deploying the National Guard in Texas and Arizona, calling for an end to the “catch and release” of immigrants awaiting hearings and promising to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. Even without the enactment of those policies, arrests along the Southwest border fell by nearly 24% in 2017 compared to the previous year, suggesting border crossings have dropped, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
“If Donald Trump were to tweet, ‘Hey @billconerly, what’s your advice on immigration?’ ” Conerly said. “I’d tell people the wall has already been built, and it’s working. We’re seeing less immigration already.”
Looking ahead, slowed immigration might make retailers’ jobs harder. From 2020 to 2030, Conerly predicts that the U.S. will have fewer people adding to the working-age population than it did during the Civil War. “We’re entering the tightest labor market that any of us has ever seen,” he said. The economist asked retailers to envision their long-term plans for their business. If those plans include expanding in size or locations, he recommended that retailers start thinking how they’re going to recruit those candidates.
With a labor force participation rate of just 63%, some c-stores might be competing with welfare wages. In states that offer welfare benefits totaling $13.50 to $15 an hour, the labor-force participation is sometimes lower.
“We are going to have to compete with the welfare-equivalent wages to get them to work for us,” said Andy Jones, president and CEO of Sprint Food Stores Inc., Augusta, Ga.
But that lower participation rate also means c-stores might have to rely on immigrant labor. “There are fewer and fewer native born citizens in the United States,” Jones said. “We’re going to need to hire more and more immigrants to fill job vacancies in the future.”