With unemployment already relatively low in Missouri, it’s unclear how much of an impact a recent decision by Gov. Mike Parson to stop accepting federal unemployment benefit dollars in June will have on the job market.
Supporters of the move believe those extra federal dollars have kept people from searching for a new job. But with statewide unemployment sitting at just over 4%, Missouri is tied at 13th for one of the lowest rates in the country.
States striking down federal dollars for unemployment claims could see a decrease in their rate as it forces people back to work, but a professor at Missouri Western State University said Missouri officials might not see the results they are looking for. The federal dollars no longer apply to unemployment benefits beginning on June 12.
“I don’t think it will do a lot. Part of the problem with the labor shortage is not charging a high enough wage rather than if there is a job,” Dr. Kara Grant, assistant professor of economics, said. “People are re-evaluating what job they want now and being more selective.”
Last year at this time, as the state was coming off pandemic shutdowns, Missouri had about a 10% unemployment rate. Before the coronavirus hit, the state enjoyed just over 3% unemployment.
Even though Missouri’s rate is higher than pre-pandemic levels, people might be a little slower to get back into the workforce as they look to find their best option.
“That might be beneficial to people finding a job that is a better fit. It might hurt the economy right away but be better in the long term,” Grant said. “It depends on a lot of factors.”
Jobs are available in manufacturing and infrastructure, which can be considered high-intensive manual labor. Grant said these types of jobs need to offer competitive wages to make people eager to fill those positions.
“A lot of times, people want a higher wage for the type of job they are doing. That is why garbage men have higher wages because people don’t want to get those jobs,” she said. “So raising wages might help people get back to the workforce. It is not ideal for businesses though, for sure.”
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