No big jump in job seekers yet after U.S. jobless benefits end

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Southern Indiana Works Executive Director Tony Waterson stated that since the end of the additional federal pandemic jobless benefits on September 6, there had not been a significant increase in the number of people locally seeking jobs or training at WorkOne. 

Waterson noted that when the state temporarily terminated federal pandemic unemployment benefits earlier this year, there was an increase in the number of people looking for work, which he hopes to see continue in the coming weeks. 

 “We certainly saw an increase in traffic into our WorkOne center, but we also heard from employers that they saw an increase in applicants to open positions. We’re too early from Sept. 6 to now to see that, but we’re certainly optimistic that we will,” he said. 

Though the end of this assistance may push some people to look for work, Waterson and Uric Dufrene, a finance job head at Indiana University Southeast, pointed out that there are other reasons people may not be looking for work. 

 “I think will have an impact; it’s not going to be the full solution because there are other issues involved with a labor scarcity,” Dufrene said, “One is, some people have simply exited the labor force.” 

According to Dufrene, a higher number of people have been retiring than was typical before the pandemic, implying that fewer people are available to return to the workforce. 

Waterson pointed out that the stock market is performing well, which could be why people feel more confident about retiring after reviewing their retirement funds and 401(k)s. 

According to Dufrene, child care is another factor that would prevent people from entering the workforce if these benefits were lost. With COVID-19 requiring students to quarantine or participate in E-learning, parents must either stay at home with their children or find child care. 

 While some parents may find it difficult to afford child care, Waterson points out that finding child care is another factor that may prevent them from working. 

“There’s just fewer child care facilities. We’re not training enough child care workers; we’re not paying them enough,” Waterson said, referencing an article he read in the Courier-Journal. 

 Businesses that faced a labor shortage before the pandemic adapted and figured out how to increase productivity. According to Dufrene, the gap between the number of employees and the GDP has grown wider with each recession since 1990, and it is now more pronounced as a result of technology. 

What this means for individuals now searching for jobs is that a lot of available positions require education and/or training.“This is where I think it’s essential that employers also, where possible…make investments in training. Make investments in taking an employee that may not have the skills and getting them to the level where they need to be,” Dufrene said. 

WorkOne specializes in collaborating with training providers and listening to business skill requirements. Providing occupational skills and technology training assists individuals in entering its five target sectors of transportation and logistics, manufacturing, health care, construction, and business services. 

The demand for workers is still high. If someone wants to work, wants to get into a career or career path, we can help them do that,” Waterson said. 

In WorkOne’s most recent program year, Waterson stated that the individuals they assisted in hiring earned slightly more than $20 per hour on average. 

According to Dufrene, wages have risen both locally and nationally, with Southern Indiana experiencing the highest wage growth since the data series’ inception in 2001. 

 “Employers need to offer higher wages in order…to get people to come back to work. It’s working in some cases, but in other cases, they’re still having challenges filling these vacant positions,” Dufrene said 


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