By Senator George Borrello
The entire nation is seeing a severe shortage of workers in almost every industry. Yet, despite that shortage, we still have recession-level unemployment numbers in many states. New York has one of the worst unemployment rates in the country at 7.6%, as of July. Yet, almost every employer I have encountered is desperate to hire workers.
Even before the pandemic, New York had the most generous unemployment system in the nation. Here, it has always been possible, under certain circumstances, to collect unemployment benefits even if you leave your job voluntarily. With the pandemic, fear of contracting Covid-19 became another acceptable circumstance. While this could be justifiable during the early days of the pandemic, it is less so with a vaccine readily available.
Without question, the traditional unemployment safety net took on different characteristics as the pandemic wore on into its second year and federal relief programs generously supplemented benefits. For many, unemployment became an option, rather than a necessity.
This spring, as businesses of all kinds strove to meet growing demand for goods and services, it quickly became apparent that demand for workers far outstripped supply. Many businesses could not and still cannot hire enough staff to operate at full capacity. Restaurants have reduced hours and menu offerings. Manufacturers are being forced to delay deliveries and are even turning away business altogether.
Media and “expert” analysis of the labor shortage has blamed jobs that don’t pay enough or offer benefits. But facts don’t bear this out. There are many job openings at places like American Rock Salt in Livingston County, which I recently visited, and other unionized businesses across my district where the pay and benefits are far above average for our region.
Lack of transportation and child care are also cited as barriers to employment. Those are legitimate concerns. But they were concerns prior to the pandemic when the unemployment rate was half what it is today and far more people were gainfully employed.
Employers are raising wages sharply to attract employees. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show some of the strongest wage growth in decades. We have businesses willing to pay sizable sign-on bonuses, offering flexible work schedules and much more. In some cases, they are offering bonuses that represent life-changing amounts of money that would give new employees the ability to buy a car or put a down payment on a home.
In addition to being an elected official, I am also a small business owner, along with my wife, Kelly. We’ve faced first hand these challenges that so many other businesses are experiencing. While I believe the enhanced unemployment benefit was a disincentive for able-bodied people to work, it is not the only factor. There is a far more disturbing trend, especially in progressive states like New York. That is a trend where politicians, bent on preserving their own power, have used this pandemic to create further dependence on government.
One example of that is the state’s recent extension of the eviction moratorium until Jan. 15. Again, an action that may have been justified in the pandemic’s early days, now, 18 months later and with a job market desperate for workers, appears meant to perpetuate and normalize reliance on government intervention for basic necessities.
These efforts are falsely portrayed as being about compassion while they are really about control. The people in power want to stay in power. An effective way to ensure that is by having a large class of people who are reliant on those who provide them with ever-increasing government benefits.
People deserve the dignity and pride of having a job and being self-reliant. We need a thriving economy and a workforce prepared for the future. That only happens if we reject politically driven, self-serving policies that will only lead us downward and instead choose a future of potential, opportunity, and – yes – hard work.
Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, represents New York’s 57th District.
Source: “Another Voice: Pandemic policies are diluting our state’s work ethic“, The Buffalo News