WSJ Spin on H-1B Numbers

By John Miano on October 29, 2009

The Wall Street Journal has a front page story today on that portrays a sharp decline in the number of H-1B visas.

The paper reports that "only 46,700" applications had been made for 65,000 H-1B visas available.

Intel's director of work-force policy and manager of the firm's immigration policies, Jenifer Verdery, proclaims that, "The fact that the 65,000-visa cap hasn't been reached this year shows that the market will temper demand when necessary"

The spin here is that the worst economy since the Great Depression has caused industry to reduce its use of H-1B visa from every last visa possible to only 72 percent of those available. This supposedly shows that "Contrary to the claims of H-1B critics, if importing cheap labor were the goal of H-1B visa employers, these visas would have been gone on the first day applications were accepted last spring," Ms. Verdery of Intel says. "In slow economic times, such as today, the demand decreases and the market takes over, which is as it should be."

Holy mindless spin, Batman! The H-1B visa sellers have as much shame as the Wall Street bonus pushers.

If H-1B use really responded to economic demand, one would expect H-1B numbers to drop to nearly zero when we are losing jobs. No job growth should mean no visas. Job reductions and more visas mean even greater pain for Americans than necessary.

But things are even worse. The WSJ story is not even counting all the visas.

There is another quota of 20,000 H-1B visas for those with U.S. graduate degrees. That was used up. So we have 66,700 of 85,000 visas (76%) being used up.

And visas issued to universities do not get counted at all. Reported annual visa numbers under the current law have ranged from 109,614 in FY 2006 to 130,497 in FY 2004.

The total number of H-1B visas was probably about double the WSJ's "only 46,700" figure.

The paper gives us even more lobbyist-speak: "[T]he number of visa holders is small compared with the U.S. work force."

H-1B is small compared to total jobs but is large compared to job growth. Between 2000 and 2007 job growth in computer fields has averaged about 65,000 a year. Over the same time period, there was an average of 49,000 H-1B visas approved for computer workers each year. If you are looking for a computer job, the number of H-1B visas is significant. (I use averages here because in some years the number of H-1B visas actually exceeds the number of new jobsĀ­, as it certainly will this year.)

American workers are not going to rest easy knowing that in the declining job market they face from H-1B "only 46,700" job competitors that would not otherwise be there plus ... plus 20,000 more ... plus ...