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There Is No Shortage of Tech Workers

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It's high season for economic myth busting.

First, we had the myth of the 90 percent debt-to-GDP ratio busted open. And now one of Washington's other cherished myths—the lack of workers trained in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM, for short)—has been demolished.

The U.S. has "more than a sufficient supply of workers available to work in STEM occupations," a study released Wednesday by the Economic Policy Institute has found. In fact, we're producing far more STEM graduates than we can place in jobs.

Some bullet points from the summary:

  • "For every two students that U.S. colleges graduate with STEM degrees, only one is hired into a STEM job."
  • "In computer and information science and in engineering, U.S. colleges graduate 50 percent more students than are hired into those fields each year; of the computer science graduates not entering the IT workforce, 32 percent say it is because IT jobs are unavailable, and 53 percent say they found better job opportunities outside of IT occupations. These responses suggest that the supply of graduates is substantially larger than the demand for them in industry."
  • "Over the past decade IT employment has gradually increased, but it only recovered to its 2000–2001 peak level by the end of the decade."
  • "Wages have remained flat, with real wages hovering around their late 1990s levels."

The important policy implication is that the massive push for increasing visas for high tech workers is misconceived. We do not have a worker shortage at all.

What's more, the push for more foreign workers might be counterproductive, since it likely result in fewer Americans seeking training and jobs in technology.

"Immigration policies that facilitate large flows of guestworkers will supply labor at wages that are too low to induce significant increases in supply from the domestic workforce," the study said.

It's important to note that the Economic Policy Institute is a left-leaning think tank. Its conclusions cannot be chalked up to a bias against immigration.

So why do we hear so much about a shortage of tech workers? Simple: Tech employers want wages to fall.

Follow me on Twitter @Carney

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