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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

Battle for the soul of a new web

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A well-funded and intensely motivated chunk of tech's hive mind is finding common cause in a vast new project: rebuilding the web on a foundation of cryptocurrency and blockchain tech. They call it "Web3."

The big picture: Developers, investors and early adopters imagine a future in which the technologies that enable Bitcoin and Ethereum will break up the concentrated power today's tech giants wield and usher in a golden age of individual empowerment and entrepreneurial freedom.

First look: Biden summons top CEOs on supply chain

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Biden will meet Monday afternoon with CEOs of big retailers, grocers and consumer-products firms to send this message, according to the White House: Products will be on shelves for holiday shopping.

Zoom out: Black Friday sales rebounded from 2020.

Thanksgiving box office shows theaters have long road to recovery

Photo of Disney's "Encanto;" Credit: Disney

Box office ticket sales over the Thanksgiving holiday show that consumer confidence in moviegoing is slowly improving, but not enough to bring the struggling theater industry back to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon, if ever.

Why it matters: "We may have to temper expectations a bit" for next year, said Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian.