We are very short staffed and no one wants a job right now

“Biden and Republicans Spar Over Unemployment as Job Gains Disappoint” (NYT):

The president said he saw no measurable evidence that a $300 federal boost in unemployment benefits was hurting the labor market, amid criticism from conservatives and business groups.

From a Mexican restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina (Biltmore Village, actually) last month. The sign on the door: “We are very short staffed and no one wants a job right now. … ITS THE NEW PANDEMIC! Most of us are working doubles everyday.. PLEASE BE KIND to the ones that did show up for their job today!!”

Is it better elsewhere in the nation? A friend owns a multi-state chain of restaurants. April 30, 2021 email from him:

It’s impossible to hire people right now. The people that want jobs and want to work have them. Everyone else is happy to collect unemployment, which, apparently, can still pay you damn close to what you were making pre pandemic. We post applications and get piles of responses. None show for interview. Turns out you have to approve you ‘applied’ not ‘interviewed to keep the checks flowing.

Anecdotally, it has been difficult to get Ubers and drivers say that their peers have quit to collect unemployment, welfare, etc. Uber XL pays enough to compete with Uncle Joe and therefore it is usually easier and quicker to get an Uber XL (minivan or pavement-melting SUV). We used Uber around Atlanta in mid-April and it was often slow to get any kind of ride, but 10 minutes faster to get an XL than a regular UberX. Example from a downtown location where, pre-coronapanic, you’d expect a regular Uber to be available in 2 minutes, not 12:

We’re currently fixing up a house in order to sell it. There are a lot of tradespeople happy to work, but only if paid in cash. They say that they don’t want to upset their unemployment benefits.

The New York Times did an analysis of the $600/week supplemental dole a year ago (“Workers in more than half of states will receive, on average, more in unemployment benefits than their normal salaries”):

Now that the supplemental dole has been cut to $300 per week, in theory working should pay a little more than not working. In practice, though, the American collecting unemployment can do some work for cash and end up with a higher spending power. Also, not working might be a lot more fun than working, depending on the job. Maybe at $300/week plus the standard unemployment check the overall lifestyle is better even if spending power is a little lower. If the unemployed person’s slightly lower reportable income results in lower prices for means-tested housing and means-tested health insurance, spending power might actually be higher.

What does the Bureau of Labor Statistics have to say? Americans have been increasingly averse to work starting in 2009 (see also Book Review: The Redistribution Recession):


27 thoughts on “We are very short staffed and no one wants a job right now

  1. Here in my little place in the middle of Deplorable land, the local convenience store has cycled through three different new hires in a month and a half. It looks like the new game is to get hired briefly, then start calling in sick and go back on unemployment.

    • This isn’t true, as if you are fired for cause, you aren’t eligible for unemployment.

    • @Scarlet Number: Well, I’m not sure what they were fired for, I don’t know the details, but I was told that two of them called in sick repeatedly. Maybe they’re seeking disability.

    • @Scarlet Number: And the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance rules are very liberal and qualify you for 79 weeks of assistance. All you need is to give verbal assurance that someone in your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19.


      “You must provide “self-certification” that you are otherwise able and available to work, but are prevented from doing so by one of the following circumstances relating to COVID-19:

      You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a diagnosis
      A member of the your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19
      You are caring for a household or family member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19
      A child or other person for whom you have primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility as a result of COVID-19
      You are unable to reach your place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency
      You are unable to reach your place of employment because you have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine
      You were scheduled to start work and do not have a job or cannot reach the job as a result of COVID-19
      You have become the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19
      You had to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19
      Your place of employment is closed because of COVID-19
      You work as an independent contractor and the COVID-19 public health emergency has severely limited your ability to continue performing your usual work activities, and has thereby forced you to stop performing those activities”

      So basically you can pick one of the above and just “self certify” for PUA in MA and then collect unemployment for 79 more weeks.

  2. You moving to the good side of Gainesville or the bad side? Obama voters need to spread to the red states to get more capital gains tax increases. Got to make the bottom 99% pay up.

    • lion2: I enjoyed voting for Obama. It made me feel virtuous and I did not like any of his opponents (e.g., Hillary Clinton, whose primary qualification was having been married to a former president). We will be moving to Jupiter, Florida (just north of Palm Beach) and can write in Barack Obama in every presidential election going forward!

  3. Everyone knows the goal is minimum basic income. That’s basically irrefutable now, but of course, if you say it, people tell you that you’re crazy. In order for minimum basic income to work, you have to first create the conditions that make it necessary, otherwise you have no real pretext for it.

  4. Why aren’t all the free market guys yelling at restaurants to raise their salaries? You gotta out compete the welfare. Lolz. Start paying busboys like we pay engineers and the work will get done. And yes engineers will have to pay more for their tacos, or make their own. Free market baby, it is beautiful.

    • It is rather obvious that the restaurant market is not free: it is either price controlled directly by imposing the minimum wage, or indirectly by welfare checks. Whatever is left of the market does work: the customer is getting inferior product due to to the government price control and the restaurant owner unwillingness to raise menu prices for fear of losing customers.

      Also, “yelling” and “free market” combo is an oxymoron

    • GB, your question is your answer. If restaurants paid more they will have to raise prices to stay in business and would loose customers and go out of business anyway. It seems that market, not free of course, found the solution: those who do not want work stay on unemployment benefits and those who want to work get maximum feasible salary and make lot’s of overtime so it would make sense for them to stay employed financially, at least that what happened at local supermarkets.

    • What is the fair salary for a low tier worker, e.g. a taxi driver or a waiter working 40 hours a week in 2 or 3 shifts? Can he/she/zee/they/shim expect to support a family of 4 with that salary?

    • “What is the fair salary for a low tier worker, e.g. a taxi driver or a waiter working 40 hours a week in 2 or 3 shifts? Can he/she/zee/they/shim expect to support a family of 4 with that salary?”

      Probably not on wages alone, but Uncle Sam’s free school lunches, EBT, housing assistance, child care credit, and EITC should cover the bills for the low-tier worker’s three dependents.

    • DP isn’t that basically the same? Higher taxes for social programs that compensate lower wages or vice versa. Needed amount of goods and services has to be payed in any case.

    • Are taxi drivers now considered to be low-paid? Back when I paid attention to it they were considered making several standard deviations above average salary.

    • They are making the immigrants eligible for welfare too. Bringing more in won’t help. Oh I know, robots, haha.

    • chip: As GB notes, isn’t an immigrant eligible for all of the same programs that induce the native-born to chillax on the sofa with Netflix? An immigrant can enjoy means-tested public housing, means-tested health insurance (Medicaid), food stamps (maybe not immediately, except for refugees (a category recently expanded by President Biden), etc., no? An immigrant who works for a period of time would also be eligible for state unemployment benefits, plus federal $600/week or $300/week supplements, no?

      Even an immigrant ordered deported can be in taxpayer-funded public housing legitimately.


      A Boston Housing Authority official said yesterday the agency was never notified of a deportation order issued for Barack Obama’s aunt, who has been living in federal- and state-funded public housing in South Boston since 2003.

      BHA Deputy Director William McGonagle said Zeituni Onyango, 56, a native of Kenya, met the criteria to live in federally funded housing when she applied in 2003. The Associated Press reported yesterday that an immigration judge instructed Onyango to leave the country in 2004 after her asylum request was denied.

      “The deportation order, based on my understanding, based on what I’ve read in the newspaper, was issued after she moved into public housing in Boston and we would have no way of knowing if there was an order or not,” McGonagle said.

      “We check with the applicant about their citizenship status at the time of application. We have no affirmative responsibility I am aware of to further check on their status after they are initially deemed to be eligible.”

      Onyango, who is the half-sister of Obama’s late father, lived at the federally subsidized Old Colony development in South Boston from 2003 to 2007. She moved to her current residence, the state-funded West Broadway development on Flaherty Way in South Boston, in January, McGonagle said.

      Unlike the case with federal public housing, tenants moving into state-funded housing in Massachusetts do not have to prove their citizenship or immigration status. According to the state Department of Housing and Community Development, “As a result of a consent decree in federal court in 1977, the state cannot deny state-subsidized public housing to undocumented immigrants.”

    • @chip: “bring in more immigrants”

      The Democrats and the Stupid Party have been doing this for 50 years; housing expenses have skyrocketed and employment opportunities and wages for lower-skilled Americans have plummeted. Supply and demand.

  5. 1) This shows that UBI will not work and it is simple why. Someone who doesn’t like to work, if you give them free money, even as little as $100 a month, that translate to wanting to work X less hours to stay at current life style. In fact, that someone will love his/her life even more now. Less work, same income, what more do they want?

    2) Employers not finding Employees is not just for restaurants, it is an issue across many other organizations including small shops, 1 man owned carpentry/landscapers/etc. and large ones such as supermarkets/retail stores/etc. They all are struggling to find workers not because there aren’t people out there, but because workers are getting money for not working.

    3) Anyone at the age of 30+ still has a no-skills-needed job and is making minimum wages, is someone who got what he/she wants/deserves and no one should feel sorry for him/her or family. Believe it or not, they are living far simpler, better and less tiring life then those making $100,000+ a year. You have no idea how much side money they are getting from the government.

    4) The so called “poor” or families going to bed hungry or having no place to sleep in the USA is a joke. In fact, the “poor” and the middle class enjoy the same life quality in the USA, but the middle class has to work for it, the so called “poor” does not. Please don’t bother to show me statistics about the “poor” in the USA or sensational stories how “poor” families spent nights with no food et. al. Even a “poor” immigrant in the USA has the same life quality as a middle class. If you want to know what “poor” is, look in some countries in South America, Africa, Middle East and India to name some.

    The problem with the USA is we have a broken education system and it keeps getting worse year after year. The issue isn’t just with education quality, but with the overall education strategy. All of the curriculums, all the way to the end of High School are STEM based but not every student is cut for STEM. Even worse, there is no alternative for those who cannot make it in STEM based curriculums. High Schools need to also provide broad and solid trade-base curriculums, such as construction and mechanics or even general handyman curriculums for students. Such a system exist in Germany. But above all, High Schools need to also provide 4 years curriculums on how to be a responsible and well mannered adult — a task and the responsibility of parents.

  6. Here in the flyover land high schools do have trades curriculum, such as machine shop class, small business class, and a vocational program which buses students from their high school to a nearby community college. Overall schools sometimes achieve bronze ratings in US-wide ratings; student base is diverse, top students are getting into Ivy League and/or on merit scholarship to top-ranking college programs.

    • @LSI, here in MA, in the early 80’s when I was in HS, we had an autobody and woodwork/electrical classes. They were limited in capacity and resources as such some students were declined (freshmen were not allowed to take any of those classes due to capacity limit).

      This was in a public HS that has almost 1000 students enrolled a year. The trade classes were well run and well equipped with all the tools. But limited to 1 class a week, for 55 min. per student — thus students didn’t get much out of it. On the other hand, curriculums such as sports, to name one, they were required of all students, meet 2 times a week and have afterschool and even weekend activates to keep students engaged. Too bad that trade classes are considered third class citizens.

    • In the early ’80s, when I was in high school, my community had a Vocational-Technical High School dedicated to several of the trades. Several of my middle school classmates attended and did quite well, especially the ones that got union jobs. The school also offered trades training at night for adults and high school students that were interested.

      I attended the non Vocational-Technical High School, but they offered excellent vocational training on top of the regular college prep. Freshman year, the student would cycle through four trades, and then settle on one for the remaining years. About 4+ hours of class time per week. I went through the Auto Shop program and learned a lot. Then headed off to college to study Computer Science.

  7. The agriculture high schools in Massachusetts spend 50% of school time on vocational training. Oddly they turn out students that do quite well in the world and only lack foreign languages as an academic subject matter. Not much if any AP, but AP classes are just for signaling how much you are willing to pay to be humiliated and mentally abused in college.

  8. Nobody seems to have realized that $1.50 is the new $1.00. A lot of businesses that were built on low-cost labor will struggle to adapt to a world where that’s not a thing.

    • Last time I looked my income did not magically grow 50%. If my costs grew 50% across the board then I would have to cut on services because I would become poorer without nominal change in my income. But here in the flyover land my service costs did not change much yet I guess due to culture; many people prefer working to getting checks from uncles Donald and Joe. I can not say the same about states’ tollbooths where I sometimes travel, they inflated big time.

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