By Judy Gordon, DPSC Secretary
Republicans and the media are quick to point the finger at expanded unemployment
benefits for employers’ current hiring woes.
The Albuquerque Journal asserted, “We’re competing with unemployment,” claiming that the $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit in the Covid-19 relief package is causing our current labor shortages.
But the picture is much more complex than this narrative would have you believe.
With many of the nation’s schools not fully reopened, workers—mainly women—are forced to stay
home to perform childcare and homeschooling. On the poverty incomes they would earn, the burden of childcare would leave them unable to pay their rent and feed their families. The fact that labor force participation for men grew in April but dipped for women reinforces this point.
While the extra unemployment does induce some low-wage workers to stay home, millions report they are not returning to the labor market because they fear getting Covid.
If the extra $300 is keeping some low-wage workers home, employers have an option: pay a living wage, offer decent benefits, and provide safe working conditions.
Nearly two-thirds of unemployed people are not receiving unemployment compensation, much less the extra $300, making the claim that unemployment has caused the labor shortage implausible.
We are not facing a labor shortage due to an epidemic of freeloaders. Most people value the self-respect and dignity that come with a job and are eager to return to the workplace. In reality, we’re facing a wage, childcare, and safe workplace shortage.