Ending unemployment benefits didn’t ease worker shortage

Republicans were wrong again.

Earlier this year, even as the Covid-19 summer surge gained momentum, they insisted on ending pandemic unemployment benefits, arguing they kept employers from overcoming labor shortages.

How hungry employers actually are for workers — excepting low-paying, bad jobs nobody wants — is debatable, when job seekers tell their rejection stories.

In any case, economists viewed the Labor Department’s September jobs report, released on Friday, October 9, as a test of whether ending those benefits would bring the unemployed back into the workforce, with reopening of schools expected to also contribute (by freeing up women from childcare duties).

It didn’t. The economy gained only 194,000 jobs in September, versus 500,000 predicted (read story here). That number blew their “lazy workers” argument out clear of the water. And this followed upon several months of mostly tepid job gains, while over 5 million people remain unemployed by the pandemic. Something else is keeping them out of the workforce.

Reopening continued to be bumpy in September, with the Delta surge peaking at mid-month, and rolling outbreaks forcing over 2,000 school closures. But in any case, cutting off unemployed benefits didn’t bring them back. Continuing fear of exposure, despite rising vaccination numbers, is thought to be still holding many back.

Whether that’s true or not, Republicans clearly were wrong about blaming the worker shortage on unemployment benefits.

Wrong, or dishonest? The GOP’s policies are uniformly hostile to workers. They’re against unions, minimum wage, workplace safety enforcement, and anything else that benefits workers. This writer argues the entirety of conservative ideology boils down to cheap labor; in fact, he calls Republicans “cheap labor conservatives.” His arguments, even if exaggerated, resonant when you read them.

By this reckoning, the GOP push to end pandemic unemployment benefits had more to do with systematic hostility to workers than any specific goal like helping employers meet their hiring goals. There might be something to that.

Why do I say that? Because you’ll never Republicans them say, “We were wrong, ending benefits didn’t increase hiring.” To begin with, they’re not exactly famous for acknowledging obvious, plain facts in other spheres. But while they care about that, it was never their real objective. Ending unemployment benefits was, whether there was jobs available or not. For Republicans, making life more difficult for workers is a political way of life, and seemingly is an end in itself.

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0 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Mark Adams #

    Perhaps they all ran away and joined the circus.

  2. Roger Rabbit #

    Maybe the ones who think vaccines are more dangerous than the high wire or trapeze.