May 13, 2021

People debate going back to work before unemployment expires

People debate going back to work before unemployment expires

One Yolo County resident said her husband and their family could survive off of unemployment while she recovered from a C-section.

YOLO COUNTY, Calif. — The return to work debate is heating up. Republicans and small businesses have said unemployment benefits and incentives are keeping the workforce at home. On Thursday, President Joe Biden said that’s not the case.

Yolo County resident Ashley Bush said her family recently had to weigh the options of going back to work or not. She was on maternity leave and her husband, who is a truck driver, was laid off for the season. Bush crunched the numbers and found if her husband were to take unemployment, along with the added money from COVID-19 measures, her husband wouldn’t need to find a job in the meantime.

“So, do you stay home with your new baby and our toddler — we also have a older daughter — and have the valuable family time that you normally wouldn’t get, or do you go back to work?” Bush said.

She was recovering from a C-section and would have needed to hire help for her toddler if her husband went back to work. She said, with her calculations, if her husband were to take a job, they would break even or lose money.

“To actually lay that out and to look at that, it’s a hard pill to swallow. You’re not then factoring in gas for commute times and childcare, all these other expenses you have,” Bush said. “A lot of people are looking at that and realizing they’re losing a lot of money.”

He did get unemployment for a couple months before he felt the need to return to work.

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Economist Oscar Jorda said this is common right now.

He said some mothers are waiting to see what happens with school in the fall. Other lower paid workers in public-facing jobs, like the service industry, are waiting to see if people get vaccinated to better protect themselves and their families.

“I think that workers probably want to go back to work, and not depend on the government for a period of time that is, know to sunset at some point,” Jorda said.

The extra $300 in federal unemployment benefits are currently set to end after September 4, 2021.

Overall, Jorda said he believes the kinks will work out. He said not to pay attention to the most recent data. He compared the current state of the workforce to a patient coming out of a coma.

“Coming out of this coma, it’s going to take time to build muscle and to build the intellectual strength,” he said. “That’s true also for the labor market. Just think of the people who have been outside the labor force who are probably not quite as productive as they were, who have lost some skills, who need to retrain themselves and need to kind of pick up the habits that go with holding a job.”

Jorda said businesses will need to outsource and rethink the way they operate, but for right now patience is key.

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