The prevalence of help wanted signs are a welcomed sight in the recovery economy of Louisiana. But even though employers are begging for workers and promising great pay, employees are not showing up to take those jobs.

The latest job report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed how dire this situation is.  Many economists expected more than one million jobs to be added in April, but the report showed that only 266,000 jobs were added. The next week, the BLS reported that job openings reached 8.1 million, the highest since that statistic started being tracked in December of 2020. There are jobs and opportunity everywhere you look but Americans and Louisianans are sitting on the sideline.

Why are potential workers sitting out the hottest job market in twenty years? Expanded unemployment benefits are a major reason.

Since the early days of the pandemic, the federal government has provided an extra income of $300 to those who lost jobs due to the shuttering of the economy. But these extra payments, which were extended until the fall, are now serving as a disincentive to getting back to work.

More than a dozen states around the nation including Texas, Mississippi, and Tennessee have realized the disincentive extended unemployment poses and moved to end these benefits.

Louisianans lack of willingness to return to the workforce has been prevalent in the data for some time. The state had 60,000 people on unemployment at the end of January. After 4 months, a million vaccinations, and an end to the mask mandate, the number of Louisianans still collecting unemployment hovers around 50,000.

As Todd Grave CEO of Canes said “The demand for employees is just through the roof. Everybody is reopening at once.” In an effort to keep employees, Canes is giving employees retention bonuses of $250. Yet even with this demand and higher pay, people are not going to work.

There is nothing wrong with employees demanding higher wages and better benefits as the economy recovers and employers are desperate for workers. But employers should compete with each other, not the federal government and its power of the printing press.

This situation of the federal government paying workers to sit on the sidelines is bad for the economy and the workers. Prior to the pandemic Louisiana had one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation at 5.3 percent as well as sluggish economic growth. Today the unemployment rate sits at 7.3 percent and the state has 133,000 fewer employees than in March of 2020.

The Louisiana economy has suffered for too long with record unemployment and lost productivity. Louisiana is open for business, but the federal government has put up yet another roadblock. Its time to end the enhanced unemployment and get Louisiana back to work.