In the last couple of months,” help wanted” signs have become a common sight all across Louisiana. Last month, America had a record of 9.8 million job openings, over a million higher than the previous record just a month ago. Employers are looking for workers and often paying bonuses for them signing up.

Yet too many Louisianans are still sitting on the sidelines. There are still 50,000 Louisianans collecting unemployment benefits and the state has 155,000 fewer workers than it did before the pandemic. One of the reasons is expanded unemployment benefits.

Because of the massive disruption to the economy due to the pandemic, the federal government has provided an extra benefit of $300 per week to workers.  In states like Louisiana, workers can earn more by not working than contributing to the economy, even with employers raising wages. According to a study for the Foundation for Government Accountability, workers on unemployment and other monthly cash benefits were making more than the median wage in Louisiana.

Thankfully, the Governor just signed a law ending the extra payments by July 31st. While ideally the extra payments would have been ended immediately, this will still provide an incentive for workers to take part in the hottest job market in a generation.

Having people get off the sidelines will not only open up the Louisiana economy and breathe life back into the state’s small businesses, but it will also benefit workers in the long run. Workers coming back and earning higher wages will increase their lifetime earnings but also keep building the skills needed to grow in their careers.

With tax reform on the ballot in October, Louisiana has an opportunity to flip the script on its economic future. By encouraging citizens to work and businesses to move to Louisiana, the Pelican state can take part in the massive growth felt by other southern states, rather than continually falling behind.