Jun 22, 2017

Labor shortages plague midwest manufacturing towns

AJ Mast / AP

While economists and futurists are rightly concerned about the possibility of mass unemployment precipitated by automation technology, right now the U.S. economy is experiencing one of the tightest labor markets in a generation.

The immigration paradox: It's rural counties in midwest states like Indiana that have the lowest unemployment rates in America, and could therefore benefit from a bit more immigrant labor. In all, 73 U.S. counties have 2% joblessness or lower, according to government statistics.

Take, for example, Indiana' Kosciusko County, home to a third of global orthopedic device production. The Washington Post reports that manufacturers there are struggling to find workers for dozens of open positions, as the county's unemployment rate sits at a minuscule 2%.

And while the population in a lot of the former manufacturing towns of the Midwest has shrunk, many rural counties have seen it tick up. The population of the northern Indiana town of Warsaw, for instance, has gone over 14,000, from just over 12,500 in 2000, the Post reports.

But these are also the places that are culturally averse to immigration — a 2015 UCLA study pegged Indiana as the fourth most-inhospitable state to undocumented immigration.

The Fed's quandary: The U.S. central bank is raising interest rates under the presumption that such labor shortages will soon cause steep wage increases, and lead to inflation. We aren't seeing those effects just yet, and left-leaning economists argue that the Fed needs to embrace tight labor markets to help raise pay for the working class.

Go deeper

The wreckage of summer

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We usually think of Memorial Day as the start of the summer, with all of the fun and relaxation that goes with it — but this one is just going to remind us of all of the plans that have been ruined by the coronavirus.

Why it matters: If you thought it was stressful to be locked down during the spring, just wait until everyone realizes that all the traditional summer activities we've been looking forward to are largely off-limits this year.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 5,428,605 — Total deaths: 345,375 — Total recoveries — 2,179,408Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 1,643,499 — Total deaths: 97,722 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil Over 100 cases in Germany tied to single day of church services.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The CDC is warning of potentially "aggressive rodent behavior" amid a rise in reports of rat activity in several areas, as the animals search further for food while Americans stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers: More than 97,700 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 366,700 Americans have recovered and more than 14.1 million tests have been conducted.