Many business groups in Illinois, from landscapers to hotels, have called on the Biden administration to give out work permits to illegal immigrants in order to ease the state's tight labor market. Recently, Senator Durbin (D-IL) called for legalizing illegal immigrants and increasing immigration because the worker "shortage is hurting every community and every industry — from health care to hospitality."
But this argument for more immigrant labor ignores the massive decline in labor force participation: the share of working-age people working, or at least looking for work. Those not in the labor force do not show up as unemployed because they are not actively looking for work.
Nationally, 44 million U.S.-born working-age (16 to 64) men and women are not in the labor force — almost 10 million more than in 2000. The number is 1.6 million in Illinois. Again, this does not even include the officially unemployed. The falloff in labor force participation is contributing to profound social problems such as crime, drug addiction, social isolation, and depression.