Have you seen the “Help Wanted” signs that appeared across Emmett and most of the Treasure Valley? If you don’t maybe have it, you’re not looking for a job – or just starting to watch as Governor Little announced that as of June 19, Idaho will no longer participate to all federal unemployment compensation programs in the event of a pandemic.
Saying “it’s time to get back to work,” Little announced last Tuesday that it was ending the additional $ 300 per week benefit available under Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC). It also closes the window on Pandemic Employment Assistance Benefits (PUA) for those who would not generally be eligible for unemployment, such as the self-employed, and on Emergency Unemployment Benefit in pandemic event (PEUC) which extends benefits after regular benefits have been exhausted. .
âEmployers tell me that one of the main reasons they can’t recruit and retain some workers is that these employees get more unemployment than they would while on the job,â Little said during the announcement. .
Restaurants and retail stores across the state are reporting that they cannot find enough employees at this time. An Emmett company decided to cut hours, including shutting down two days a week, to cope with a smaller staff.
Rather than pushing four current employees to cover hours that would normally be covered by eight to twelve employees, Subway at Emmett is now closed on Sundays and Wednesdays and limits the hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the other five days.
Emmett McDonald’s restaurant has joined the ranks of those seeking extra help as it prepares to reopen its dining room after months of drive-thru. The local franchise boasts a starting salary of $ 11 an hour.
That’s about $ 3 an hour more than the starting salary before the pandemic and it puts pressure on competitors to match that salary.
Restaurants may be hit hardest when trying to return to pre-pandemic customer service levels.
But it’s not just a question of salary according to some local restaurant managers.
Tanya Crump runs Cold Mountain at Emmett and she says the lack of follow-up and the apparent lack of desire to work is as big an issue as pay levels.
âOur servers are doing pretty well,â Crump said. âOur waitresses can easily earn $ 20 an hour and more with tips. It’s not an easy job, but if you want it, it’s rewarding work with great customer loyalty. “
Crump is always on the lookout for all staff positions, however, and says that while the applications are large, the follow-up is not.
“I will receive a dozen APs per week, but when I call for interviews there is no response.”
This is where the pressure of reduced and expired unemployment benefits could spark new interest.
âWe’re seeing signs of asking for help everywhere,â Little said. âIdaho has the strongest economy in the country, and we’re one of the top ten states for the best jobs, but we can do more. My decision is based on a fundamental conservative principle – we don’t want unemployed people. We want people to work. A strong economy cannot exist without workers returning to work. “
It is Idaho’s strong economy that can be as much a factor in the proliferation of signs of asking for help as any reluctance to quit increased unemployment.
âStrong demand in the construction industry has siphoned off some potential employees,â says Earl DeFur, owner of Sonbyrd Industries in Emmett. If Sonbyrd is essentially linked to the construction activity with its cabinetmaking activity, it specializes in cabinetmaking of commercial, school and leisure vehicles. The main demand, however, is in the residential construction sector and competition in this market drives up wages.
While the lure of unemployment has been there and DeFur believes the governor’s decision is justified and will be somewhat effective, he doesn’t see it putting an end to wage pressure and the low supply of new workers quickly.
Sonbyrd has used the time of the pandemic to rethink its business model and adapt to what could be a new paradigm moving forward.
âWe used the original PPP loan programs to keep our employees fully engaged,â DeFur said. âThey might not have liked picking up trash rather than running a machine, but we adapted and kept everyone here. Now we need to consider using the latest round of P3 loans to restructure our salary scale and employee benefits to some extent. “
This new paradigm is also changing some of the production schedules and tendering processes of projects, as the supply chain that powers their production line is crumbling at best.
âWe used to have short lead times on orders,â DeFur said. “We cannot rely on orders this fast and we cannot rely on offers that last longer than a few days because supply chain outages are common.”
This was also a factor for Skyhook at Letha. The high tech machine shop that ships internationally has always been able to beat the competition with fast turnaround times. It has become a bigger challenge.
While the production schedule may have been behind schedule, order volume hasn’t and Skyhook is taking a creative approach to finding extra help for the machinists. They offer part-time positions to retirees who might want to work short shifts a few times a week to stay active and supplement their fixed income.
It’s hard to know exactly what the unemployment rate is in Idaho at any given time. If a potential employee is not genuinely interested in pursuing a job, he or she is probably not included in the employability pool. But they don’t get unemployment benefits either – or at least they shouldn’t be.
The question of who can and should receive unemployment benefits has become considerably blurred over the past 15 months. While many of the standards and verification processes inherent in the traditional system have been removed, some have not and if an unemployment beneficiary has taken advantage of lax liability checks, recourse may arise.
If you quit your job on your own, quit without being made redundant, but applied and received unemployment benefit, you may need to repay that money in the coming months. The Idaho Department of Labor is getting back on track to verify unemployment claims with employers. Some employers, overwhelmed by labor shortages as consumer demands for goods and services rebound, admit to being slow to respond to IDOL’s separation of services demand verification and this is likely to change .
The pressure on the job market is unlikely to ease anytime soon. Even if more applicants re-enter the workforce, salary and working conditions will likely be considerations and may need to be negotiable according to some business advisers.
The combination of pandemic relief efforts and a robust global local economy has created a new business environment that may be here to stay. Flexibility and adaptability are mentioned as skills that employers and potential employees may all have to bring.
A local job candidate sees this as “a great opportunity to find meaningful work that can meet both the needs of an employer and the needs of my family in a creative way we never imagined before.”