This past week our H-2B visa seasonal workers arrived, were oriented and received their initial field training. We are now fully staffed for spring with a team of 300 in our five Oregon and SW Washington branches. All of these 60 H-2B seasonal workers are friends and family of our existing experienced employees, helping to ensure we have a dependable and trustworthy workforce.
As you know, PLM is a strong advocate of the the guest worker visa program called H-2B. The program provides a vital resource for seasonal businesses like ours to staff documented, motivated workers to support our year-round staff.
For a decade and a half, we have utilized the H-2B visa program to fill our seasonal labor positions. Not only does it ensure that our seasonal labor force is legal, it provides us a very stable and motivated workforce. In today's controversial immigration debate environment, programs such as H-2B are subject to criticism and are at risk of being lost. However, we support the program and hope to retain it and expand it.
Some say the program takes away opportunities for American workers or suppresses wages, but with our local unemployment rate at 3.9% and the required H-2B wage of $19.37/hour, neither is true. As a part of the application process, employers must prove the inability to attract local workers at that prevailing wage. This year, those recruiting efforts produced no local candidates for the 60 visas we applied for.
The H-2B program allows only 66,000 visas annually, while the certified need for these types of workers is more than triple that number. We feel lucky to get these 60 H-2B visas this year and we are looking forward to a productive 2023.