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Refugee Resettlement Decline Pushes Utah Into Labor Shortage

Apr 27, 2019 Familia America Immigration

With fewer and fewer refugees being resettled in the United States, Utah finds itself in the midst of a labor shortage. Unemployment in Utah is relatively low, so very few Utahns are looking for work. This makes for a shortage of workers to fill jobs in the service and hospitality industries—jobs that are traditionally held by refugees and immigrants.

Lowest Refugee Ceiling in Decades

Utah has always welcomed refugees and immigrants with welcome arms and still does. However, fewer numbers of people are being granted refugee status than ever before. During the administration of President Barack Obama, the United States settled roughly 110,000 refugees per year. In 2017, the current administration lowered the target number of refugees to 45,000, less than half of its previous level. However, only 21,000 people were resettled in 2017. The refugee cap was lowered again in 2018, down to 30,000, which is the lowest it’s been in 40 years.

Refugee arrivals peaked in 2009 with 1,402 refugees resettled, rallied in 2016 with 1,319 resettlements, and then steadily declined. In 2018, only 366 refugees settled in the state. Programs that resettle refugees in Utah say they hope to have at least 400 refugees resettle in the state in 2019.

Refugees’ Impact on State Economy

Approximately 272,000 immigrants call Utah home. Around 60,000 of those immigrants hold refugee status. Although Utah’s refugees account for just 2 percent of the state’s total population, the contributions that refugees make to the Utah economy are quite substantial, according to a report from bipartisan research and advocacy organization New American Economy. Utah’s refugees spend more than $324 million in the state.

Feeling the Labor Pinch

One Utah company feeling the pinch from the shortage of workers in the state is the Salt Lake Brewing Company, which manages the Wasatch Brewery and Squatters Craft Beers. The company typically hires immigrants from Central America and Mexico as dishwashers and cooks, says its CEO Doug Hofeling in an interview with KUER. Hofeling estimates that up to 40 percent of Salt Lake Brewing Company’s staff are immigrants, but applications from immigrant are growing fewer in number.

Businesses count on immigrants to take on jobs that are not as popular among Utahns, including those in the agricultural industry and hospitality. With the new labor pool shortage, filling a position can take anywhere from two to six months. Companies are also paying more per hour for new hires in an effort to incentivize applicants. Hofeling went on to say that jobs he once filled at $11 per hour now pay $17.

Experiencing Immigration Problems? We Can Help

Utah has become a welcoming place for immigrants and refugees that are able to overcome the obstacles necessary to call the state home. At Familia America Immigration, our immigration lawyers in Salt Lake City work hard to help non-citizens realize the American dream. We go above and beyond to help you become a legal citizen of the United States. Give us a call at 801-656-9605 to discuss your immigration problems with our caring and knowledgeable staff now.

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