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'Workers seem to chase money'

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | May 13, 2021 1:00 AM

Tuesday’s announcement by Gov. Brad Little that he is ending the state’s participation in three federal pandemic unemployment compensation programs to encourage people to work and fill Idaho’s many job openings was met with mixed reaction.

“Idaho’s economy is moving at full speed, and so the justification for the emergency expansion of unemployment no longer exists,” said a statement from the Idaho Department of Labor. “Our economy is no longer in crisis, and so the crisis response is no longer appropriate. At the same time, we know that labor shortages predated COVID and there are still the longstanding barriers to getting people matched with jobs (insufficient or overly expensive childcare, lack of skills among job seekers), and we know that the number of job openings in the state is much larger than the number of people on unemployment.”

Silverwood Theme Park, which has many openings, increased its wage to $15 an hour “just to be more competitive than all of the other companies hiring right now. 

“The wage jump increased our applicants tremendously. We have hired nearly 1,200 as of today, but we still need quite a few more,” according to a statement from Silverwood’s Human Resources department.

The Coeur d’Alene Resort is also gearing up for the summer season and looking to hire workers.

Resort President Bill Reagan said he isn’t convinced Little’s actions will have a major impact on filling vacant jobs, particularly in North Idaho.

“With construction and other service industries experiencing demand greater than can be met, we will all continue to have unfilled employment positions,” he wrote. 
“Most wages in North Idaho are above the payouts offered from the enhanced unemployment benefits." 

Suzanne Budge, Idaho state director for National Federation of Independent Business, said “generous UI benefits aren’t the only reason small-business jobs are begging for workers.

“No, but they are a huge and unavoidable reason, so we commend the governor for taking the bold step necessary to cure this. Montana’s governor did the same last week,” she said in a press release.

Stephanie Camarillo of Molly Maid, Meridian said the current labor shortage in Idaho has created significant challenges for her businesses. She applauded Little for his “pro-business stance.”

“So many employees in our industry have left the workforce and we aren't sure when or if they will come back,” she said in a press release. "Workers seem to chase money whether it is from the government or other employers that keep raising wages. We work hard to be an outstanding employee-centered business and we compensate our people well. But, the current environment is making it difficult to run operations smoothly. We have had to turn down lots of business because we don't have the people to deliver services and I fear that if not dealt with, there will be lasting effects. "