MADISON – A longtime economic development advocate in Wisconsin calls the problem “competing with the couch.”
A chorus of voices from state-owned enterprises say they can’t find enough workers to fill the vacancies, a trend that could spread as Memorial Day weekend approaches and the traditional start of the summer tourist season in Wisconsin.
Leaders of groups such as Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses of Wisconsin and others have sounded the alarm, with some specifically accusing the federal government of $ 300 a week in additional unemployment benefits.
Skeptics counter that jobs are slowly rebounding everywhere, even in states that have accepted the additional benefits, and that worker shortages were a problem long before COVID-19 hit the economy.
“(Continue additional benefits) threatens the viability of thousands of businesses and the jobs they provide for workers,” WMC Chairman Kurt Bauer wrote in a letter to Gov. Tony Evers. “If immediate action is not taken, there is a high probability that long-term and irreversible damage will be done to Wisconsin’s economy.”
At least nine states have rejected the additional benefits, and more of them have considered it, citing the same hiring difficulties as WMC’s Bauer. He is not alone. Bill G. Smith, State Director of the NFIB, said 44% of small businesses cannot fill vacancies and over 90% cannot find “qualified” workers, according to a recent survey. Bill Elliott, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association, called the hiring famine “brutal” because it follows COVID-related shutdowns that have hurt his industry.
Unemployed people are entitled to an additional $ 300 per week in addition to regular state unemployment benefits. In his letter to Evers, Bauer noted that the unemployed can earn up to $ 675 per week, which is equivalent to working full-time at $ 16.75 an hour.
In my own conversations with managers and owners of the hospitality industry, there are sometimes stories of job applicants âticking the boxâ. This means applying for jobs in order to meet certain research requirements, but not appearing for interviews.
Some of these employers suspect that they are “competing with the couch” because the added perks make staying at home a wise financial decision.
Responding to criticism, President Biden said his administration would make it clear that people cannot turn down suitable jobs and continue to receive allowances except in special circumstances. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said there does not appear to be a direct correlation between states that maintained additional benefits and serious hiring problems.
Finding talent has been a challenge for some industries in Wisconsin for years, for reasons ranging from the retirements of baby boomers to the “brain drain” to the need to retrain workers who lose. their jobs.
Other reasons that prevent companies from finding workers include a shortage of affordable housing in some places, childcare issues for people who might be working subsequent shifts, and compensation at a time when l Inflation is on the rise (despite assurances from the Federal Reserve that this is not real).
Some business owners and managers solve the problem by offering higher salaries, bonuses and other benefits. For others, however, the memory of being forced to downsize is still fresh and they don’t have the capacity to spend more. This makes these business owners more sensitive to arguments that government actions are keeping able-bodied workers on the sidelines.
Excessive reaction to anecdotal evidence? Maybe yes. Yet it makes sense for government at all levels to take a holistic look at the very real problem of unfilled jobs.