Minnesota's pandemic employment conundrum; lots of jobs, not enough people who want to work | KSTP.com

Minnesota's pandemic employment conundrum; lots of jobs, not enough people who want to work

Kevin Doran
Updated: December 09, 2020 10:26 PM
Created: December 09, 2020 04:46 PM

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced that lawmakers will convene for a special session on Monday to pass COVID-19 relief for struggling Minnesotans.

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are also negotiating an economic relief package. There's nothing official, but the talks include aid for businesses and extra unemployment benefits.

The state of Minnesota has an employment conundrum. The problem isn't a shortage of jobs, it's a shortage of people who want to work.

Zee Nagberi owns Platinum Staffing in Brooklyn Park. Despite high unemployment rates, his employment agency can't find workers to fill all the job openings his clients have right now.

"Mostly manufacturing jobs, warehouse, assembly, machine operating," Nagberi said. "Good-paying jobs. The least job we have is paying $15 an hour, which is minimum. We have jobs paying $30 plus an hour."

You could call it pandemic job search procrastination. According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), there are two unemployed workers available for every job opening.

"There are about 120,000 job vacancies in the state right now, according to our research," DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said. "And there's about 260,000 to 270,000 people getting a weekly benefit check from the unemployment insurance system. The overall ratio is about 2 to 1. For every unemployed worker in the state right now there is at least one job."

Platinum Staffing claims that at the beginning of the pandemic people declined job offers because they actually made more money collecting unemployment, thanks to the extra $600 benefit from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

"If they were to get unemployment, they only get half of their normal wage," Platinum Staffing Recruiter Melissa Thompson said. "So if they get half of their normal wage, plus an extra $600, add that up. If you were making $500 a week, you'd be getting $250 normally. And then add $600, that's $850 a week, when normally what they get $500."

That $600 benefit expired in July and so has another $300 unemployment benefit offered after that. Still, according to Nagberi, people continue to say no to job offers.

"Anybody that wants to work right now that doesn't have the fear, that's saying, 'Hey I have to feed my family,' they will find a job," he asserted.

The fear of getting COVID is real.

"There are some people that are afraid of COVID-19 because they're the more susceptible type to contract the disease," Thompson said. "And then there's the people whose kids are not in school or day care, so they have to stay home to take care of the kids. And then there's the people that don't want to work, or say they can't work."

Nagberi calls new COVID economic relief a double-edged sword; it would help a lot of families and companies but it's also keeping people at home who are choosing not to work he claims.

"So, if the second stimulus package comes into play, people will now, as is human nature, sit down at home again. So the numbers of active people looking for jobs will drop again until that runs out," Nagberi said.

And the "help wanted" signs will stay out at employment agencies like Platinum Staffing.

Have you lost your job and are wondering what's next? DEED has resources and expertise to help.

DEED has a list of thousands of job listings from private employers statewide.

These are the top 30 types of jobs being hired for in Minnesota right now.


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