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U.S. may open door to more temporary immigrant workers, Trump aide says

While long term immigration policy remains divisive, Kudlow says 'I think you're going to see some progress' short term

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow is interviewed at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 6, 2018.   REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow is interviewed at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 6, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is examining ways U.S. industries could hire more immigrant workers on a temporary basis, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Friday, as data showed the United States unemployment rate at an 18-year low.

“We are looking at ways to bring temporary immigrants with temporary visas legally into the United States in a number of industries,” Kudlow told CNBC in an interview, adding he did not want to say more that would “get ahead of the curve.”

Kudlow, who also spoke on Fox Business Network, noted that while the White House was wrestling with Congress over legislation to address immigration long-term, “I think you’re going to see some progress” on immigrant employment visas near-term. He gave no other details.

Earlier on Friday, Labor Department data showed job growth accelerated in May and the unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent, pointing to rapidly tightening labor market conditions that also showed wages rising solidly.

The strong employment report also hinted at a labor market squeeze that could leave employers struggling to find qualified workers, slowing job growth and lifting wages.

“The labor market is tightening rapidly and declines in the unemployment rate are likely to continue, but at a slower pace,” Ben Herzon, an economic analyst at IHS Markit, wrote in a research note.

The Trump administration last week opened up another 15,000 H-2B visas to help U.S. employers hire temporary non-agricultural workers in an effort to help fill seasonal jobs during the busy upcoming summer tourist season.

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A number of U.S. employers, from seafood processors to hotels and restaurants, have complained that they cannot fill jobs with domestic workers and were shut out of the visa process, which this year was run as a lottery for the first time rather than the usual first-come, first-served basis.

Across the country, businesses have reported shortages of qualified workers for a variety of trades, including truck drivers, sales personnel, carpenters and tech workers, the U.S. Federal Reserve said in a report on Wednesday.

Rising U.S. wages could drive more Americans into the labor market, Kudlow said.

“There are a lot of Americans out there who would love to work if the price is right and the job is right,” he told CNBC.

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