Help Wanted

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A special report from Chris Davis.

You’ve seen the help wanted signs. You may have heard the recruitment ads on the radio. Businesses in central Mississippi need workers. While some people in the Biden administration deny that the extra unemployment benefits and stimulus money have given people incentive to stay home, the people who watch the job market in central Mississippi tell a different story.

“Right now I believe we’re struggling in the fact that we’ve got all these jobs available, but nobody wants to work,” said Tim Moore,, head of the Community Development Partnership in Neshoba County. “You even hear in the last month, I need a job, I need a job. Well, there are jobs. There’s jobs all across Neshoba County in an array of fields, but nobody wants to work.

Moore said in his estimation, excess federal money going directly to Mississippians is the cause.

“You’ve got stimulus on top of people getting their taxes back. Well, that’s a huge chunk, Why should I go to work? I’m making more staying at home.”

The same story is told in Leake County by Mala Ray, with the Chamber of Commerce.

“The stimulus, I feel like, has given people a different opinion of what they could make at different jobs,” she said. “They feel like they weren’t being paid enough prior to COVID and the stimulus has affected their opinion of their personal value.”

Ray said it has also affected whether they are willing to work at some of the jobs available.

“I do feel like they (businesses) have been hit pretty hard with the stimulus and unemployment being out there if someone’s not working.”

In Kosciusko, Darren Milner, with the Kosciusko-Attala Partnership said he feels like people, because of the extra unemployment, are being a bit more choosy about the jobs they are willing to take.

“There are plenty of jobs available in our community. I think many times when I am told we need jobs, they’re really saying, we need a different type of job than what’s available. Every manufacturer is hiring as production is escalating post-pandemic. Restaurants are in need of good workers, opening back to full capacity, and retailers are always searching, as well.”

Milner said when someone is looking, they could be less picky about a job, and should go to work, if they are not working.

“It’s a harsh reality to say that someone doesn’t want to work. But, post COVID-19, excess stimulus and higher unemployment wages seem to be slowing the work force down.”

While Democrats and Republicans argue about another possible stimulus bill, with more unemployment benefits until September, and maybe longer, some states like South Carolina, are taking steps to end the extra unemployment benefits in their jurisdictions. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), has introduced a bill in Congress that would pay people a $1,200 “back to work bonus”, rather than the extra unemployment benefits, if they start by the end of July.

Tomorrow you’ll find out how the economy in central Mississippi has fared over the past year during the pandemic. Some of the economic leaders in the area have some responses to our questions that you might not have expected.