Street Talk: The immigration situation

A coalition of business and industry leaders last week launched the Michigan Compact on Immigration, a set of principles outlining the need for smart immigration policies at the federal and state levels that recognize the role immigrants play in helping drive Michigan’s economy forward.

The compact, whose signatories represent more than 20,000 companies and more than 1 million employees, calls for a federal immigration system that responds to the needs of Michigan employers and workers in a time when talent attraction and retention is critical to the state’s economic growth.

The initiative comes as new data from New American Economy’s Map the Impact shows just how much value immigrants add to Michigan’s economy. In 2018, immigrants held $18.4 billion in spending power and paid $2.1 billion in state and local taxes. While just 7% of the state’s population, immigrants make up more than 17% of STEM workers, a critical role considering Michigan faces significant workforce shortages in STEM jobs. As of 2015, there were 19 open STEM jobs for every one unemployed STEM worker. Immigrants also make up 28% of physicians in the state. As job creators, immigrant-founded businesses generated over $27.3 billion in sales and employed over 167,000 Michiganders in 2016.

“Michigan’s population growth over the past two decades has been completely attributed to immigration,” said Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan. “Our newest residents have helped strengthen our talent base, but we need to accelerate our growth. The states that embrace and welcome new citizens will grow the fastest and have the economic strength to provide critical shared services for all: a well-funded education system and modernized infrastructure. Our state’s largest employers are stepping forward to say: ‘You’re welcome here. Help us grow.’”

Former lieutenant governor Brian Calley, the current president of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said the state can’t afford to turn away talent.

“To keep our economy growing, we must have the brightest and best talent and that includes immigrants, who already play a significant role in our local and state economies,” he said. “Bipartisan immigration policy reforms will help us maintain and build an environment of success for small businesses.”

Grand Rapids Chamber President and CEO Rick Baker agreed.

“In order to grow and compete, we need a strong workforce, and for that we need people. The time for immigration reform is now, and Michigan’s future economy depends on its very outcome,” said Baker.

One industry sorely in need of more bodies is the hospitality industry.

“The restaurant and lodging industries have long been the catalyst for talented, hard-working entrepreneurs from around the world to gain experience, open a business and realize the American dream,” said Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association. “In turn, immigration helps restaurants and hotels meet workforce demands that are dramatically outpacing our domestic supply. Our ability to survive, let alone thrive into the future, depends on common-sense federal immigration reform soon.”

Sickening result

PNC Financial Services Group is adjusting its first quarter projections for economic growth in China downward by 6% due to the coronavirus.

The virus has hit five countries that together make up one-quarter of global GDP: China, Japan, South Korea, Italy and Iran.

PNC Chief Economist Augustine Faucher released a statement Feb. 27 that said the financial institution is reducing its forecast for first quarter GDP growth in China to 4.3% on a year-over-year basis, down from 6% before the coronavirus outbreak. He said this implies a contraction in the Chinese economy in Q1, although China does not report GDP growth by quarter.

Chinese growth is expected to rebound through the rest of 2020, thanks to monetary and fiscal stimulus from the Chinese authorities, assuming the vast majority of Chinese workers return to their jobs over the next few weeks, Faucher said.

“So far there is no sign that the coronavirus has affected the U.S. real economy (as opposed to financial markets),” Faucher said. “Going forward, the first indications of problems from the coronavirus in the U.S. will show up in survey measures — both consumer and business — and initial unemployment insurance claims.

“The most likely initial hits to the U.S. economy will be supply chain disruptions and reduced tourism flows. If there is an outbreak in the U.S., it would lead to reduced output — because of workers unable to report to their jobs — and reduced consumer purchases.”

Faucher said the fundamentals of the U.S. economy still are solid, particularly the labor market. He believes the expansion “should continue,” although the coronavirus is a downside risk to the outlook.

PNC expects real GDP growth of about 1.2% annualized in the first half of 2020, down from growth of closer to 1.75% before the coronavirus outbreak.

The Federal Open Market Committee will keep monetary policy on hold in the near term, waiting to see how events play out and for signs that the coronavirus is hitting the real economy, not just financial markets, Faucher said. The likelihood of a FOMC rate cut in the near term is much higher than the likelihood of a rate increase, he added.

Some of the big drops in stock prices and lower interest rates are from financial markets pricing in downside risks, Faucher said. He said financial markets will remain volatile in the near term due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus impacts.

Sweet dreams

Mercy Health Saint Mary's is the first health care system in Grand Rapids to offer Inspire, a treatment option for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

OSA, which affects 18 million Americans, occurs when the airway collapses during sleep and blocks the flow of oxygen to the brain. The brain senses a lack of oxygen and wakes the body up just long enough to take a breath, and then falls back asleep. This cycle repeats throughout the night and causes poor, disrupted sleep, Mercy Health said.

When left untreated, OSA can cause daytime fatigue and sleepiness and an increased risk for car accidents and mood disorders such as depression. It also can increase the risk of high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure and stroke.

Inspire works inside the body with a patient’s natural breathing process to treat OSA, Mercy Health said. The Inspire system is inserted under the skin through three small incisions during an outpatient procedure. Mild stimulation keeps the airway open during sleep, allowing oxygen to flow naturally.

Patients use a small, handheld remote to turn Inspire on before bed and off when they wake up. Patients can increase or decrease the strength of the stimulation to find the setting that gives them comfortable, restful sleep.

“Many patients believe that Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, also known as CPAP, is the only treatment for OSA,” said Dr. Christopher Morgan, medical director of Mercy Health Sleep Center. "Although there have been a lot of advancements and improvements in CPAP, it may not work for everyone. Inspire was developed for patients who could not use or weren't able to get benefit from CPAP.”

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