We've all seen it. Two words written in bright red letters, posted at the front of nearly every hardware store, grocer, or boutique in town: "HELP WANTED." While some in the White House want to pass off the current labor shortage as an anomaly, Tennesseans know better. We are in the midst of a labor crisis.
April's jobs report revealed that the forces driving our economy are coming to a screeching halt. Job growth expectations fell drastically short, and unemployment rates climbed above six percent. In the Volunteer State, we boast five available jobs for every one person on unemployment. No one bears the burden of this unemployment trend more than our small business owners.
Last week I spoke with Jon Hargett, founder and president of Pavement Restorations, Inc., who explained that demand for construction jobs increased 35% during the pandemic. In spite of this, his business is struggling to find the employees he needs to meet the expanding need.
What caused this problem? As Jon put it, "government has become my competition." He's exactly right. Stimulus checks and unemployment bonuses were never meant to be a permanent solution. The first few rounds of bipartisan bills were intended to support communities facing unprecedented need. Now, the near constant stream of checks and bonuses have become competition for local businesses. As more Americans are getting vaccinated and mask mandates are lifted, Democrats keep trying to force through more and more funding. At this point, their efforts are a blatant attempt to boost dependency and tether more Americans to the federal safety net they no longer need to rely on.
More money won't fix this problem. Business owners like Jon have already increased their starting pay. Jon described that even with roles paying 23 dollars an hour, "folks aren't interested in coming in the door." That doesn’t stop some in Washington from pushing for more unemployment bonuses. Policymakers demanding this boost are completely out of touch with what the economy actually needs. In our state, owners like Jon are pleading to big government, "[We] just need this to be over."
Across Tennessee, business owners are struggling to persuade folks to rejoin the workforce, but this isn’t their fault. Rather than doling out government bonuses to push people to stay at home, we should be encouraging Americans to start working again. That’s why I cosigned the Get Americans Back to Work Act. This bill will phase out Biden’s unemployment bonuses entirely by the end of June.
It's time for Biden to read the signs: help is wanted. Washington Democrats can no longer ignore the jobs crisis they created. They need to listen to Tennessee business owners, end big government bonuses, and get America back to work.