Arizona economy experts report on impact
of immigrant labor in Phoenix metropolitan area
By Hayden Larkin | Special to the Digital Free Press
Small businesses and blue-collar labor are crucial to any local economy — the Phoenix metropolitan area is no exception, experts say.
For metropolitan areas having a large number of workers to cater to more people is necessary. Post-COVID America has seen challenges to doing business and many companies struggle to fill vital positions; however, one group has come in mass to fill those roles: immigrants, potentially.
Labor shortages and closing businesses have swept over Arizona even after the economy reopened. Many companies are struggling to find workers and small business owners struggle to pay bills. According to AZ Big Media, there are 11 million job openings in Arizona as of September and participation rates, especially for workers over 50, have still yet to level out.
However, this labor shortage may have provided a much-needed opportunity for immigrant workers to find stable work while stimulating these businesses’ needs as well as giving new small business owners an economic shot in the arm to stimulate the economy.
“It really is across all industries where immigrants are filling these gaps,” said Monica Villalobos, the CEO of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Post-pandemic was really empowering for immigrants because they were able to find industries they wanted to be in. We have a bright and ready workforce for us.”
Immigrants can help labor shortages
According to Ms. Villalobos, about 1 in 5 self-owned businesses are Hispanic-owned, and they create about $1.7 billion in revenue for Arizona’s local economy, also allowing for money to go into Arizona’s government and presenting the ability to provide for citizens.
However, there are still issues with companies of all sizes finding workers, Ms. Villalobos pointed out.
“Immigrants are a strength that we have in the state and one we need to use to help labor shortages,” she said.
These people also desire to work and have some of the highest participation rates when it comes to labor here in Arizona. While native Arizonians have begun to participate in “skill-less” jobs overall, immigrants continue to seek out work that others leave behind.
“Despite being 13% of Arizona’s population, nearly 57% of Arizona immigrants fall within the prime working age. In addition, immigrants have a higher labor force participation rate of 63.7% compared to 60.6% for all Arizonans.
“Immigrants also play a significant role in key Arizona industries such as construction and manufacturing,” said Geraldine Miranda, policy associate at The Arizona Center for Economic Progress.
It is not simply blue-collar labor, however. Many important services, such as health care workers or emergency personnel, rely on immigrant labor in Arizona, according to May Mgbolu, director of economic policy at The Arizona Center for Economic Progress.
“As COVID-19 infection rates increased, the role of immigrant workers in Arizona became evident,” she said. “Healthcare professionals, food service workers, childcare providers, and emergency personnel — all providing essential services — were disproportionately immigrants.”
Arizona seems to run on immigrants in many ways. Nearly one in six workers employed in key industries in Arizona were immigrants and they continued to work during COVID-19 pandemic despite the potential health risks.
Editor’s note: Ms. Larkin is a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication.