With around 56,000 people reporting being unemployed in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, companies are still trying to fill vacancies.
Part of the challenge is the additional $ 300 a week in pandemic emergency unemployment benefits people have been raising since late December. This supplement is half of what was provided by the first Covid Relief Bill.
For Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the extra unemployment benefit is one factor that keeps workers from getting work. A recent report estimates that 25% of the unemployed perform better than they do at work, Barr said.
“How do you compete with the federal government? You can’t, ”said Barr, who suggested the state take that extra $ 300 and offer it to unemployed workers as a one-time return to work bonus.
The workers stay at home and collect money instead of a paycheck, said Barney Oursler, executive director of the Mon Valley Unemployed Committee.
“Unemployment benefits only pay half of the wages,” said Oursler.
Factors such as the availability of childcare, concerns about developing Covid and passing it on to the family, and where you work all play a much bigger role in determining whether unemployed people apply for a job, Oursler said.
From the point of view of Kelli Prucnal, whose Carol Harris Staffing tries to attract employees for customers, the additional unemployment benefits and stimulus checks call into question the recruitment efforts.
“When unemployment and stimulus checks wear off, people will likely look again,” said Prucnal.
Chris Briem, regional economist at the Center for Social and Urban Research at the University of Pittsburgh, disagrees that the extra unemployment benefits are keeping people away from work.
“It’s only had a marginal impact,” he said.
Revenue is a natural force in the restaurant industry, with the workforce changing about 70% annually, Briem said. As more restaurants expand their service by lifting the restrictions, it is “impossible” to rent all restaurants at the same time, Briem said.
The additional unemployment benefits are part of what Ben Fileccia, director of operations and strategy for the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, calls the “complicated problem.”
Access to reliable childcare is one element holding workers back, Fileccia said.
In addition, the Pittsburgh region has seen a decline in the workforce, Briem said. There are about 46,000 fewer workers in the area than there were a year ago, he said. Some left to look after family members; some retired early; others, like college students, went home during the pandemic and may never have returned.
While some companies blame stimulus checks and extra cash for unemployment for encouraging people to stay home, Abby Wolensky, assistant director of the Employment Institute at McKeesport, said it wasn’t always that easy. Auberle, who runs the Employment Institute, often works with people who face significant barriers to success in the workplace – factors such as homelessness or behavioral and mental health problems.
These people may need additional resources – such as those provided by the Employment Institute – to prepare for a job. Employers, Wolensky said, need to understand the struggles some workers may face – especially those affected by the pandemic.
To give workers more incentive to look for jobs and make unemployment benefits less lucrative, Republican governors in Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee have added Unemployment Benefit from at various times $ 300 canceled in June or July.
In Pennsylvania, Wolf shows no inclination to follow suit.
“There is no evidence to support the misrepresentation that extra unemployment benefits are a major contributing factor to the perceived labor shortage,” said Lyndsay Kensinger, governor’s spokeswoman. “Pennsylvanians willing to return to work are already being drawn to certain employers or industries that offer higher wages, sign up for bonuses and other contributions.”
Julia Felton and Joe Napsha are contributors to Tribune Review. You can contact Julia at 724-226-7724, firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @ JuliaFelton16. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, email@example.com, or on Twitter @jnapsha.
Julia Felton is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Julia at 724-226-7724, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter.
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