Here in Colorado several restaurateurs wrote a letter to Governor Jared Polis earlier this summer asking him to join the other states that ended the extra unemployment benefits enacted in response to the global Covid-19 panic. Their theory was that the higher unemployment checks were keeping restaurant workers on the sidelines making them unable to appropriately staff their restaurants.
Extra $300 Unemployment Payment Ends
Until earlier this month, many recipients of unemployment were getting an extra $300 per week. This is a substantial amount considering typical unemployment benefits are around $400 per week under normal circumstances. Another way to look at is that the $300 per week represents $7.50 per hour when compared to a full-time 40-hour workweek.
The restaurant owners concluded that the ability to earn a total payment of approximately $700 per week, or $17.50 per hour as a 40-hour workweek. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder that hard working restaurant jobs paying near minimum wage of $12, or even $13 or $14 per hour would not entice workers to come back. Supporters of the extended benefits looked at the same data and concluded that it is the restaurateur’s own fault for paying such low wages.
Who was right?
We are about to find out.
Now that the higher unemployment payout had ended, if the restaurant owners were correct, these people should come flooding back into the job market and quickly fill up the open staffing positions restaurants have.
But, if that small business owners were wrong, then nothing will change and they will continue to have the staff issues they have today.
Why People Did Not Go Back To Work
Lost in all of this talk are the actual people who have not returned to the workplace. Various surveys show that these unemployed workers have much more to content with than simply an extra $300.
Several former workers find themselves needed at home for children not returning to school full-time. Others are concerned with their health, especially at low-wage jobs that have high contact with the public. These jobs get the least sympathy from management about being safe, while being the most exposed to customers who refuse to wear masks. Is it any wonder they look long and hard for another job before returning to restaurants?
Here in Colorado, at least, there aren’t many predicting a rush of applicants for restaurant jobs that weren’t there already.