by Scott McClallen
COVID-19 restrictions might be winding down, but 762,000 Michiganders are still receiving unemployment benefits while records jobs stay unfilled.
The location of those receiving unemployment is skewed toward high-population areas. Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb Counties compose 400,000 claims.
But business owners are having trouble hiring, and not just in Michigan. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says a record 9.3 million jobs are open nationwide.
Nationwide, a record-high 48% of small business owners in May reported unfilled job openings (seasonally adjusted), according to the National Federation of Independent Business monthly jobs report. May is the fourth consecutive month of record-high readings for unfilled job openings — 26 points higher than the 48-year historical reading of 22%.
“Small business owners are struggling at record levels trying to get workers back in open positions,” NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg said in a statement. “Owners are offering higher wages to try to remedy the labor shortage problem. Ultimately, higher labor costs are being passed on to customers in higher selling prices.”
Some, including Michigan Chamber President & CEO Rich Studley and many Republicans, blame $300/week boosted federal unemployment benefits extended through September on the labor shortage. Studley says his members can’t find workers even after offering $19/hour jobs plus hiring bonuses.
“The fundamental public policy problem continues to be the state, and federal government are paying people not to work,” Studley previously told The Center Square.
Eight U.S. Republican Representatives asked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in May to end the state’s $300/week enhanced federal supplemental unemployment benefits, which she declined. Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) Acting Director Liza Estlund Olson has told lawmakers that boosted benefits aren’t keeping Michiganders from finding work.
“Folks aren’t staying on unemployment,” Olson told lawmakers. “They could max out at 79 weeks (over a year). We are seeing 15 weeks for regular unemployment and 24 weeks for PUA [Pandemic Unemployment Assistance].”
Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.9% in April compared to April 2020’s peak rate of 22.7%.
More than 25 states have ended extended benefits.
NFIB says 61% of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in May. A net 34% of owners (seasonally adjusted) reported raising compensation, the highest level in the past year. A net 22% of owners plan to raise wages in the next three months, up two points from April.
Of small business owners hiring, 93% reported problems finding qualified workers. The struggles are across the board: 40% of small business owners have job openings for skilled workers, while 27% have openings for unskilled labor. In construction, 66% of construction businesses reported few or no qualified applicants.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.