While 1,039 individuals now qualify for resident status under Public Law 116-24, only four people with employment authorization document, or EAD, actually were part of the CNMI workforce last year, according to Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente.
Data compiled by local Labor from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018, shows that out of the 41,902 job openings reported to Labor as part of its quarterly compliance submission requirement last year, only four were EADs.
“Looking at my data last year, there were only four EADs working, as far as our reporting is concerned,” said Benavente, who added that the quarterly compliance submissions report involves 700-800 businesses.
She, however, surmises that the shockingly low number of EADs in the workforce last year could be attributed to misreporting and errors on the part of companies.
“It could be that the companies are reporting them as U.S. citizens or CWs (legal foreign workers). …Some of them are also caregivers [who could be working from home],” she said.
Workers under the CNMI-Only Nonresident Worker, or CW, visa program had the lion’s share of job openings in 2018 at 30,678, followed by H-2A at 8,359, H-2B at 2,550, H-1B at 151, EB3 at 125, EB2 at 20, and H-2A at 15.
For the first six months of this year, Labor recorded a very slight increase in EADs in the local workforce, as there are now five such workers under the category.
Of the 17,244 openings from Jan. 1, 2019, to July 1, 2019, companies reported having 15,810 workers with CW visas, 737 with H-2B visas, 558 under NA, 53 under EB3, 28 under H-1B, and 23 under EB2.
Despite the low number of EADs reported in the workforce, Benavente said she welcomes the 1,039 new workers that could presumably join the local workforce after President Donald J. Trump signed H.R. 559 into law last year.
“It’s 1,000 workers. Any [number] of workers added to our population is a big help. Every little bit helps. Every number of employees added to the workforce helps,” she said.
The local Labor chief also hopes that more companies would adhere to the quarterly compliance submission requirement and that those who do, take more time in answering them correctly.
To this end, Benavente said she will begin to crack the whip for companies to strictly comply with the requirement as non-participation carries as $2,000 fine.
“Not everyone is participating in the quarterly compliance submission. We’ve already sent notices of warning and they can be sanctioned and fined,” she said.