Extended pandemic unemployment benefits have effectively ended in the U.S. The programs, which were extended when the American Rescue Plan was signed into law, gave jobless workers between $300 and $600 more in weekly unemployment benefits. While some states opted out early, seeing little additional participation in the workforce- others let the benefits run until federal expiration.
Some experts have argued that ending the additional $300 payments in New York, which bring weekly unemployment benefits to over $800, will result in more people getting back to work. The service industry has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, and many small business owners say enhanced unemployment benefits made getting back to full-staff impossible.
Will more workers apply for jobs?
“You could see an uptick in applications for some of the lower-paying jobs in the area,” Matt Burr explained. He’s a professor of business administration at Elmira College.
Anthony Santulli, who owns The Sauce Boss, located in the Southern Tier, agreed that the worker shortage many experienced over the last several months was brought on by increased unemployment benefits. “Everybody wants to stay home, the benefits outweigh actually getting out there and working. There’s just a huge shortage of workers. nobody wants to work. Things just fall through the cracks when you don’t have as many employees…I do a lot of the work myself,” said Santulli. “As a business owner, you got to make yourself ten times more available because if somebody can’t make it to work then it’s just on your shoulders.”
However, Burr said that while some employers hope an end to the pandemic unemployment programs will mean more workers – the reality might be a little more complex. “It’s not always about people just wanting to sit around collect unemployment,” he explained. “It’s also about the culture in the organization and if you’re not treating your people well and if there’s bad management, that has an issue on turnover as well.”
There’s been a power shift in the dynamics between employers and employees. The pandemic has given more power to low wage workers, who have previously been relegated to accepting whatever terms they could. “The employees and the applicants are the ones who get to pick and choose where they go at this point. It’s up to us as business owners and managers and leaders to create a culture that we are recruiting and retaining top talent,” Burr added.
More than 1.6 million New Yorkers have lost unemployment benefits, as the pandemic continues with increasing cases.