Business groups warn about Georgia’s ‘growing labor crisis’

Georgia Northwestern Technical College in Rome, GA continues conducting classes, including precision machining and manufacturing labs, with smaller groups to allow for COVID-19 social distancing and with remote learning when possible Tuesday, Jan 26, 2021.  Instructor Bart Jenkins demonstrates a few basics for a class of new students including Trey Prater, right.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Georgia Northwestern Technical College in Rome, GA continues conducting classes, including precision machining and manufacturing labs, with smaller groups to allow for COVID-19 social distancing and with remote learning when possible Tuesday, Jan 26, 2021. Instructor Bart Jenkins demonstrates a few basics for a class of new students including Trey Prater, right. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Trade orgs want state to curtail extra jobless benefits

More than a dozen groups that advocate for the state’s businesses called on officials to end the $300 federal subsidy that unemployed Georgians have been receiving during the pandemic.

The weekly subsidy is discouraging unemployed people from looking for work at a time when some businesses are desperate for employees, according to the organizations, which include the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Farm Bureau and the Georgia Association of Manufacturers. The groups want Gov. Brian Kemp and Labor Commissioner Mark Butler to redirect the federal funding to a program that would offer bonuses to Georgians who accept jobs or to other back-to-work initiatives.

In an op-ed circulated Monday, the business groups said that many companies have raised wages and offered incentives, flexibility and benefits, but still are struggling to find workers. Because of that, some are “starting to turn down orders, raise prices and some are even considering closing permanently,” they wrote.

“We’re at a crisis point,” Chris Clark, the chamber’s CEO, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The organizations want the state to use existing federal funds to bolster child care options for workers and to support technical colleges that administer career retraining and certification programs. They’re also urging the state to resume its pre-COVID requirement that, in order to receive unemployment benefits, people must prove they are actively seeking work. Butler recently said he plans to do so in “the next few months.”

Monday, Kemp indicated he was open to the possibility of slashing jobless benefits. A spokeswoman said the governor and Butler met and “agreed changes are needed.”

ExploreKemp open to nixing jobless aid amid labor shortfalls in Georgia

The discussion comes days after the latest federal jobs numbers showed lackluster hiring growth in April.

In Georgia, jobless claims are down 27% from a month ago. The state Department of Labor’s jobs site had more than 251,600 listings late Monday.

Some Republicans have argued the COVID unemployment subsidies are incentivizing would-be workers to stay home. Others say hiring and unemployment numbers don’t account for jobless Georgians’ skill sets and where they live — a laid off IT worker in Gwinnett is unlikely to be looking for fast food work in Valdosta, for example.

The GOP governors of South Carolina and Montana recently announced plans to end their states’ participation in the federal unemployment benefits expansion.

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