These states are ending boosted unemployment benefits amid hiring concerns

Economy was ‘roaring back’ until Biden’s policies took effect: Andy Puzder

Former CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder discusses how President Biden’s policies are impacting the economy and employment numbers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A growing number of GOP-led states are planning to end supplemental unemployment benefits designed to help out-of-work Americans weather the coronavirus pandemic, a move they say will help businesses struggling to hire employees. 

Alabama, Iowa and Mississippi joined Arkansas, Montana and South Carolina on Tuesday in cutting off the sweetened aid, which provided an extra $300 a week on top of regular state unemployment benefits. The supplemental benefit is not slated to expire until Sept. 6, 2021.

Arizona reinstated a policy requiring people who want to collect unemployment benefits to actively search for work. Vermont also reimplemented a similar policy as of this week.

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The new measures come in light of the Labor Department's April payroll report, which revealed the economy added just 266,000 jobs last month – sharply missing the 1 million forecast by Refinitiv economists. GOP lawmakers were quick to blame the extra unemployment aid for the lackluster job growth, although experts have also cited a lack of child care and fears of contracting COVID-19 for the hiring shortage. 

There remain about 8.2 million fewer jobs than there were in February 2020, before the pandemic shut down broad swaths of the nation's economy. 

"It has become clear to me that we cannot have a full economic recovery until we get the thousands of available jobs in our state filled," Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, said in a tweet.  

The average state unemployment benefit is about $330 per week. With the federal supplement, Americans are receiving about $630 in weekly unemployment benefits. (For comparison's sake, that's about $32,000 annually, or roughly double the nation's minimum wage.)

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President Biden and Democrats have rejected the notion that Americans are choosing to stay home and collect the extra unemployment benefits – part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law passed in March – rather than returning to work. 

"We don't see much evidence of that," Biden told reporters during a White House press conference on Monday. "Americans want to work."

But even as he maintained that his administration would not "turn our backs on our fellow Americans," Biden pledged to enforce unemployment insurance laws so that no American can "game the system" to get paid not to work

"We’re going to make it clear to anyone collecting unemployment who is offered a suitable job they must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits," Biden said.

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During a news conference last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said it was unclear whether the $300-a-week bump was hurting businesses' efforts to onboard new employees. Powell said if it is a factor, it won't be in a few months, when the program expires. 

"My guess is we'll come back to this economy where we have equilibrium between labor supply and labor demand," he said. "It may take some months, though." 

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