SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler says there is more than three times the number of jobs available right now than before the pandemic began.
He’s urging people to look for work and says the state will end federal pandemic unemployment payments, which provide an extra $300 by June 26.
Butler says employers all over the state are telling him they can’t fill jobs.
“We’ve got to tackle this labor shortage right now or this is going to get out of control, and this is really going to lead to some really bad economic things down the road,” he said.
Butler says with the extra money per week from the federal government coupled with state unemployment benefits means that most people on unemployment right now “are making about $14 an hour.” He says many employers are raising wages, but even that is not always getting enough employees.
“I am the most worried about the smaller ‘Mom and Pop’ businesses that may be in danger of going out of business if they need to keep raising wages,” said Butler.
“People say you’re just taking the side of the employers, no I’m not I’m taking the side of everybody,” says Butler. “That’s because as these shortages continue to go on you keep pushing wages up and costs up that’s one of the drivers you’re seeing right now when people talk about inflation.”
Butler says GDOL continues to serve those receiving benefits, although Andrene Howell, of Savannah, would disagree.
Howell recently had to reapply for benefits because her first year ran out. She says in the past month, she has not been able to get any information about whether she will get more benefits.
“I don’t want to be on unemployment, but I am worried about getting my back benefits,” she said.
Howell also said she hopes to be employed within the next month, so she’s hoping the lack of the extra $300 in federal benefits will not affect her. She does, however, say the extra money has been important to her throughout the pandemic after she was laid off from her sales job.
Howell said calls and other attempts to communicate with the Department of Labor were unsuccessful.
Butler told WSAV they are “answering phone calls” and have added staff. He also said many people seeking to reapply for benefits may need that claim examined more carefully because up to 60 percent of those reapplying did not report income they had in previous months.
There are also thousands of others who have requested hearings after claims were denied or other problems with benefits developed. Butler says holding a hearing can be done over the telephone, but there is a backlog now.
Butler urged job seekers to go the GDOL website to check all the job listings.
Howell told us she has done that, and also has her resume uploaded onto all major job sites, but so far she’s had no luck. Now, she’s wondering if there will be any more benefits at all.