Georgia employment leaders say federal benefits leading to labor crisis unfolding in state

ATLANTA — Georgia state leaders say we are in a labor crisis and it’s a unique one -- too many job openings.

They say one of the contributing factors is that federal unemployment benefits are so good, many people would rather stay home than find a job.

“Because workers aren’t coming back into these jobs, we had companies tell us they are turning down orders, they’re even looking at shutting down operations,” said Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber.

Clark sent out an op-ed letter signed by 14 agencies on Monday saying the federal unemployment benefits are so good, it’s hard to get people to take a job.

“We’ve talked with employers who’ve doubled their hourly rates to $22 an hour in hopes of attracting folks back to work,” Clark said.

Clark said he wants Gov. Brian Kemp to redirect the federal unemployment benefits, using the extra $300 a month for new hires to get a signing bonus or to pay for job training.

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But the Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler says he has a different approach.

“Right now, we just need to have a full tilt pivot to re-employment,” Butler said.

He told Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston that there are currently 230,000 on unemployment and there are more than 400,000 jobs available on his job website.

Kemp said he’s talking with workers and employers to find a solution.

“We’re putting every idea on the table before deciding what to do,” Kemp said.

Some of those ideas include paying for child care or transportation.

In the meantime, people like Gloria Cooper, who was laid off in December, are still trying to figure out why she still hasn’t received any unemployment money.

“It seems like they just don’t care about the people,” Cooper said.

Bulter told Huddleston that when there are extended delays in benefits, the person could have quit or been fired and it can take some time to sort out.

The governor said he could make a decision about unemployment benefits in a few weeks.