An old friend and former co-worker told me that H-1B visas are still being doled out, even with unemployment figures as high as they are. This topic was of great interest to me just a couple of years ago. While I was a software engineer, I watched as jobs in my field were alternately outsourced, sent overseas, or undercut by immigrants with H-1B visas who typically worked for far less than the average American-born software engineer, at least during their first year or two here. This isn't a new phenomenon, but it only started becoming painfully obvious about 10 or 15 years ago. Just last year, I heard of a public library that hired a webmaster and sponsored his H-1B visa. So I thought it might make an interesting self-directed research project to find out how H-1B visas relate to unemployment in the technology sector and how the allocation of H-1B visas is decided.
I'll start with some figures from the Statistical Abstract, aka The National Data Book, a publication I discovered a few years ago at the Ruth Haas Library at Western Connecticut State University. Of course, it's all online now, but it was so much fun to flip through the pages of the Abstract from 20 years ago and discover a table of the employment figures for various professions, including engineers. That's the kind of serendipity that's hard to duplicate in an online database.