Illinois and our economy are at a crossroads today. The state is moving toward a full reopening in less than a month and the economy is rapidly expanding but businesses are not able to find workers to fill open jobs. This is a significant problem in Illinois and across the United States.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced this week that there are 706,000 open jobs available in manufacturing – a new record. The total number of job openings around the nation is 8.1 million, another record high. We simply cannot allow able-bodied workers to remain on the sidelines if we want to rebuild and restore our economy.
Unfortunately, enhanced federal unemployment benefits paired with an Illinois Executive Order waiving the requirement that individuals must be actively seeking full-time work to received unemployment are discouraging people from returning to the workforce.
Yesterday, we sent this letter to Governor JB Pritzker, calling for an end to enhanced unemployment insurance benefits and restoring the requirement that able-bodied recipients must be seeking work in order to continue receiving benefits.
In part, the letter reads:
Illinois’ own job site for example shows more than 100,000 open positions listed today of which nearly 20,000 are in the manufacturing sector. Manufacturers of all sizes and sectors are reaching out daily with an urgent plea to find workers for their facilities in all positions. The average manufacturing job in Illinois pays more than $80,000 in wages and benefits.
The current maximum unemployment benefit for an individual (no dependents) in Illinois is now $771 per week which equates to $19.27 per hour with the federal enhancement.
This issue reaches beyond the manufacturing sector – it’s a major impediment for retailers, hotels, construction, and other industries as well. You can simply drive around any town in Illinois and see “help wanted” signs on numerous businesses especially in the hospitality industry where restaurants are now closed multiple days per week because of a lack of employees.
We simply cannot allow able-bodied workers to remain on the sidelines when there are hundreds of thousands of jobs available. While the added federal benefits clearly served a purpose, as did the Executive Order, Illinois’ economy will not fully return to normal when conditions favor a refusal to return to work. Employers and employees need your immediate help.
On behalf of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and our members, I strongly encourage you to take two immediate steps.
- End Illinois’ participation in the federal pandemic-related unemployment benefit program on June 1 rather than waiting until September.
- Rescind the Executive Order that waives the requirement that a person must be able, available, and actively seeking employment in order to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits.
These ideas are not unique to Illinois. Many states around the nation are ending participation in the federal programs while numerous states are again requiring workers to actively seek jobs in order to qualify for benefits. Some states are using federal stimulus dollars to pay “return to work” bonuses rather than unemployment benefits.
Please join our effort. You can contact Governor JB Pritzker here and your lawmakers here and echo our call to end enhanced UI benefits and restore requirements that UI recipients must be actively seeking employment.