latest information on employment numbers

BLUEFIELD, W.Va (WVVA) – WVVA is helping to answer your questions about small business and personal finance. John O’Neal, the Executive Director of the Development Authority of Mercer County, is helping answer questions every Wednesday at 5 p.m. on WVVA.

WVVA: John, there have been several news stories recently about employers having difficulty finding workers. What is the latest info on employment numbers?

O’Neal: The most recent jobs report released by the U.S. government was disappointing. Economists were projecting that about 1,000,000 new jobs would be created in the U.S. in April, but the actual number was only 266,000. Nationwide, the unemployment rate increased to 6.1%. In West Virginia, the numbers were a little better. The unemployment rate actually decreased slightly, to 5.8%.

WVVA: So, is the economy in bad shape in general, or is there another reason for the poor jobs numbers?

O’Neal: There are serious concerns about inflation, but that is a topic for another day. There doesn’t seem to be a problem with the jobs supply. All over West Virginia, and the nation, employers are desperately trying to hire new workers. Government imposed lockdowns are being lifted, and seating capacities are returning to 100% at restaurants and events. Business owners are trying to get back to full capacity. There seems to be a lack of interest from some workers in applying for these jobs that are available.

WVVA: Why are small business owners having difficulty filling these positions?

O’Neal: Undoubtedly there are several factors at play, including child care issues, and fear of the COVID virus, but many small business owners say that people can make more money from the COVID Enhanced Unemployment Benefits, than they would make by returning to work.

In West Virginia, some individuals have received over $700 per week in traditional unemployment and COVID relief benefits. This amounts to about $18 per hour in a 40 hour per week job. It is hard for most small businesses to compete with that.

WVVA: What is the status of these bonus unemployment benefit programs in West Virginia?

O’Neal: The original pandemic enhanced unemployment benefits would have expired by now, but President Biden’s American Rescue Plan extended these enhanced unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021. It remains to be seen whether the program will be extended beyond that date. President Biden and Congressional Democrats want to maintain and extend these benefits.

The President has said repeatedly that he doesn’t think that the enhanced unemployment benefits are hindering employment. Congressional Republicans believe that the programs have served their purpose, and are hindering full recovery from the pandemic. They want to let the program expire in September, or even sooner.

Also, at least sixteen Republican governors, including West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, have announced that their states are no longer accepting the federal enhanced unemployment funds. In some of these states there are more jobs available than people on unemployment.

While announcing the termination of the enhanced benefits program recently, Governor Justice, said, “Our businesses are pleading with our people, ‘We’ve got to have you back to work.'” Governor Justice added “America is all about work. That’s what made this great country.”

Justice has announced that the enhanced unemployment benefits program will terminate on June 19.

Be sure to tune in every Wednesday at 5 p.m. for a new edition of ‘SB Wednesday.’

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