Three months after half of states ended federal payments, there’s no significant influx of job seekers
Indianapolis — Earlier this year, there was a loud cry from business leaders and Republican governors: It cut the $300-a-week federal supplement for unemployed Americans. Many people, he argued, would then drift away and take away the millions of jobs that employers Was eager to fill.
Yet three months after half the states ended that federal payment, there has been no significant influx of job seekers.
In states that cut the $300 check, the workforce—the number of people who either have a job or are looking for one—has grown no more than in states that keep paying. That federal aid, along with two jobless assistance programs that served gig workers and the long-time unemployed, ended nationally on September 6. Yet America’s overall workforce actually decreased that month.
“Policy makers were pinning high hopes for unemployment insurance to boost the labor market,” said Fiona Gregg, managing director of the JPMorgan Chase Institute.
The labor shortage has persisted longer than many economists expected, deepening a mystery at the heart of the job market. Companies are eager to add workers and have posted an almost record number of jobs available. Yet job growth slowed in August and September.
An Associated Press analysis of state data found that the workforce in 25 states that maintained a payout of $300 actually grew slightly more from May to September, according to data released Friday, compared to the 25 states that maintained a payout. The early hung up, most of them in June. A $300-a-week federal check on top of state jobless aid meant that many unemployed received more benefits than they earned at their old jobs.
Economists cite a variety of factors that are likely preventing former recipients of federal jobless aid from returning to the workforce. Many Americans in public-facing jobs still fear contracting COVID-19. Some families lack child care.
Others, such as Rachel Montgomery of Anderson, Indiana, are starting to cherish more time with their families and feel they can get by financially, at least for now. Montgomery, a 37-year-old mother, said she has become “pickier” about where she is willing to work after she lost her catering job last year. Missing the $300-per-week federal payment hasn’t changed his mind. She will receive her regular state jobless assistance for a few more weeks.
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“Once you’re at home with your kids and family like this, who wants to physically go back to work?” he said. “I’m not going to sacrifice pay or flexibility working remotely when I know I’m qualified to do certain things. But it also means more time to find those types of jobs.” is feeling.”
Some former recipients, especially the older, affluent, have decided to retire earlier than their plan. And after receiving three stimulus checks in 18 months, as well as federal jobless aid in some cases, most families have a bigger cash cushion than they did before the pandemic. That’s why some people are taking the time to consider their options.
Graham Berryman, 44, a Springfield, Missouri resident, has been saving since Missouri cut $300-a-week federal jobless payments in June. He has had the temporary job of reviewing documents for law firms in the past. But they have not received anything permanent since August 2020.
“I’m unemployed,” said Berryman. “It doesn’t mean I’m lazy. Just because someone can’t find work suitable in their profession, doesn’t mean they should be thrown out.”
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Similarly, some couples have decided that they can get by with only one income instead of two, at least temporarily.
Sarah Hamby, of Kokomo, Indiana, lost her $300-a-week federal payment this summer after her state ended early. Hamby’s husband, who is 65, took his job at a printing press during the pandemic. But he can decide to join the category of people who retire before the scheme.
And if 51-year-old Hamby doesn’t find work soon enough, she can do it herself. The jobs they had for decades in auto factories have largely disappeared.
“I don’t want to work in an office, on a computer, like what a lot of us are being prompted to do,” she said. “So now I’m stuck between doing something that pays too little to be worth it — or is too physically demanding — or I just don’t work.”
Nationally, the proportion of women working or looking for work fell for the second month in a row in September, evidence that many parents are still unable to manage their childcare duties to return to work. . Childcare centers have reduced staffing, reducing the care available. A record number of people quit in August, compounding the labor shortage.
In Missouri, a group of businesses, still reeling from labor shortages more than three months after the state cut a $300-a-week federal jobless check, paid for billboards in Springfield, in which Was told: “Get off your butt!” and “Get. To. Work.”
The state has not seen any increase in its workforce since ending emergency benefits.
Mississippi ended all emergency jobless aid in June. Yet it had fewer people working in August than in May. In Tupelo, a recent job fair attracted 60 companies, including VT Halter Marine, a shipbuilder. About 150 to 200 job seekers participated, less than expected in some occupations.
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Adam Todd organized a job fair for the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, which helps people find jobs and distribute unemployment benefits. The agency has received “calls of desperation,” Todd said, “from businesses that need to recruit workers during the pandemic.
“We’ve been in different times for a very long time,” Todd said. “The job seeker is truly in the driver’s seat right now.”