FILE - Now hiring, jobs, employment, unemployment rate

An Aldi sign notes hiring wages and job benefits.

(The Center Square) – With more relaxed restrictions and the promise of warmer months ahead, businesses are struggling to find employees to come back to work, even after raising wages and offering flexible hours.

Some blame generous unemployment benefits.

Atlas Staffing Inc has 241 open jobs on their site for locations across Minnesota, but Minneapolis office manager Alison Barge says it’s “next to impossible” to fill positions right now.

It’s not a skills gap, Barge said. Most of the jobs are entry-level positions, and some employers are even offering a $3/hour incentive, boosting pay to $17 an hour, flexible scheduling, part-time availability, but people just “don’t want to work.”

Some clients are struggling to fill entry-level positions and competing with unemployment benefits, Barge said.

“They’re making more money staying at home on unemployment than they would be making at these $13.25 jobs,” Barge said, which is the minimum wage in Minneapolis.

Atlas Staffing is only filling three to four spots out of 10, every day.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses Small Business (NFIB) reported 42% of owners had job openings that couldn’t be filled, a record high. A net 22% of employers plan to increase employment.

A net 28% of owners reported raising compensation, the highest level in the past 12 months. A net 17% of employers said they plan to raise compensation in the next three months.

The NFIB said owners have difficulty finding qualified workers to fill jobs as they compete with increased unemployment benefits and the pandemic keeping some workers out of the labor force.

“Main Street is doing better as state and local restrictions are eased, but finding qualified labor is a critical issue for small businesses nationwide,” NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg said in a statement. “Small business owners are competing with the pandemic and increased unemployment benefits that are keeping some workers out of the labor force. However, owners remain determined to hire workers and grow their business.”

From March 16- April 1, 1.3 million applicants have filed for unemployment benefits in a state with roughly 5.6 million people. And the county applications are unevenly distributed. More than 302,000 applicants filed for unemployment insurance in Hennepin County since March 15, while in rural Kittson County, only 419 filed in that time frame.

Seven percent of owners cited labor costs as their top business problem and 24% said that labor quality was their top business problem.

Unemployment benefits have been enhanced and extended through Sept. 6, which includes a $300 weekly bonus.

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.