21 Aug Foreign-Born Workers Help with Speedy Workforce Recovery in Mecklenburg County
It has been over three years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when workforce levels across the country dropped. Today, employment levels have reached and exceeded their pre-pandemic levels. When we look at the time it took for these numbers to recover, we see that the Mecklenburg County workforce achieved this goal at a much faster rate than the national workforce. Discover one of the key components of this speedy recovery, foreign-born workers.
Mecklenburg County Foreign-Born Growth
Immigrants have always been an important part of the workforce. That’s especially true now as we see a decline in the labor force participation rate of males and considering the labor force participation rate of foreign-born adults is usually higher than that of native-born. There are many ways immigrants benefit the workforce like how they are helping to ease the burden of the aging U.S. workforce. This is not only true at a national level but at a local level as well.
Some have argued that, because of changes to immigration laws and restrictions during the pandemic, the number of people coming to America has declined. As many immigrants are in the workforce, this decline has helped contribute to the labor shortage. However, in Mecklenburg County it seems to be the opposite.
Chart 1.1 from 2015 ACS 1-year and 2021 ACS 1-year.
Between 2015 to 2021, the foreign-born population has grown by 19.7%, which led to the number of foreign-born workers increasing by 16.2%. As with the recovery after the pandemic, this was much higher than the growth these populations saw at the national level of 4.6% and 5.1%, respectively.
While there may be parts of the country being impacted by a lower amount of growth from foreign-born workers, this does not appear to be true in Mecklenburg County.
Foreign-Born Worker Growth Across Industries
Foreign-born workers have seen strong growth across the industries in Mecklenburg County. The only two industries that have decreased are the retail trade sector and the professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services sector. It is worth noting that the retail trade sector is one of the few industries that has not returned to its pre-pandemic levels.
Chart 1.2 from 2015 ACS 1-year and 2021 ACS 1-year.
The agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and mining sector, the educational services, and health care and social assistance sector, and the public administration sector are three other areas that have not returned to their pre-pandemic levels. The foreign-born workers in these groups have grown, likely easing some of the burden of a continued labor shortage.
Foreign-Born Workers Helped with Workforce Recovery
The change in foreign-born workers between 2015-2021 does not give a perfect view of their impact or the impact of the pandemic, but it does show us how the number of foreign-born workers has been increasing in Mecklenburg County.
We cannot say conclusively if the previous changes to immigration laws or restrictions during the pandemic had a positive or negative impact on the overall number of immigrants in the workforce. But we can say the higher growth of the foreign-born population in Mecklenburg County likely assisted with the faster recovery of the workforce after the pandemic.
If you need help attracting or retaining workers, please contact us.
Note about pre-pandemic recovery:
Before the pandemic (2020Q1), average employment levels* in Mecklenburg County were around 723,000 people. When the pandemic started (2020Q2), average employment levels dropped to around 656,000 people. It would take until the fourth quarter of 2021 to get back to pre-pandemic levels. While the national workforce did not reach its pre-pandemic levels until the third quarter of 2023.
Most recent numbers (2022Q4) have Mecklenburg County with an average employment of around 777,000.
*Average employment levels taken from JobsEQ on 06/29/2023.
2015 ACS 1-Year
2018 ACS 1-Year
2021 ACS 1-Year
By: Ryan Nelson