Will the end of federal unemployment benefits help local businesses find workers?
FARGO, N.D. (KVRR) — Federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits are ending Monday. This comes as business owners across the Red River Valley continue to struggle with finding new workers.
“I know every restaurant out there is hiring and we’re right alongside them, ” Great Plains Hospitality CEO Dan Hurder said.
Hurder owns three restaurants and a catering business in both Minnesota and North Dakota, including The Boiler Room in downtown Fargo.
“Post COVID, we of course re-opened up and got much busier much faster than expected and a lot of companies were in the same boat and so I think we all kind of just started clamoring for the same folks that were out there looking for jobs,” he explained.
He says a number of factors are making it hard to find workers.
“Of course additional unemployment is the quickest one to be blamed but there’s a lot of other pressures out there. Child care is a challenge for many right now. School schedules are unreliable right now which makes working outside of the home a little bit more difficult. There’s various cash stimulus packages out there that are maybe making second jobs less necessary for a lot of folks.”
Gov. Doug Burgum opted to end the extra $300 in unemployment benefits for North Dakotans back in June.
That month, 4.4% of in the state were unemployed. In July, that number dropped to 3.6%. Cass County is at 2.7%.
August numbers have not yet been released.
Sarah Arntson with Job Service North Dakota said, “We never expected it to be a sudden spike in the number of people going back to work because as many people who were out of work, they all had different circumstances and different reasons. So, we knew that we weren’t going to see an immediate back to work spike. We are seeing it gradually rise, and that is what we were hoping for.”
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, on the other hand, has waited until the September 6th federal deadline.
The most recent data shows 3.9% of Minnesotans were unemployed in July.
Having restaurants in both states gives Hurder some insight into what kind of an impact ending those benefits has had and may have on the labor shortage.
“I don’t doubt that there are probably a few people that have stayed on unemployment that maybe could’ve gotten off a little bit sooner but I don’t believe that that is our problem in North Dakota. I think it’s a true worker shortage,” he said.
“Seventy percent of all open positions across the state of North Dakota have been posted within the last month,” added FMWF Chamber Workforce and Talent Vice President Mason Rademacher.
He says as the unemployment rate across Fargo-Moorhead drops, the demand for workers keeps picking up.
“I think our economy, to be quite honest, specifically as we look at North Dakota and even more specifically as we look at Fargo-Moorhead and West Fargo, we’ve pretty much by all accounts recovered from the economic decline that we experienced during COVID,” Rademacher said.
As schools open back up, he encourages business owners to engage with college students looking for temporary jobs and to get creative with how they’re enticing employees.
“Think innovatively about different solutions, different opportunities, different scheduling, hours potentially,” he added.
Those at Job Service ND also recommend hosting jobs fairs, offering competitive pay, and being flexible with schedules.
The Chamber plans on rolling out a workforce initiative called “Ignite FMWF” within the next few weeks to help combat the workforce shortage across the metro.
The extra unemployment benefits have been in place since March 2020.