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In Focus: Unemployment and the Maryland job market

MD unemployment
Posted at 4:47 AM, Jul 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 18:09:45-04

BALTIMORE — As a battle continues in the court to extend federal unemployment benefits in Maryland, employers are having trouble finding employees.

Related: Governor, Secretary of Labor file motion for reconsideration following recent unemployment ruling

In a discussion with WMAR-2 News, economics professor Jeremey Schwartz says the decision to end that additional money in Maryland is a gamble.

He adds, "continuing them would also be a gamble."

"There's no doubt that there's people in our state who are choosing to stay unemployed, for perhaps very good reasons." says Schwartz. "Caring for elderly, worrying about their own health or caring for children, but are doing so because the $300 allows them to do that."

The argument that Governor Larry Hogan made when he announced the early end to the federal money was stated clearly in his letter to Department of Labor Secretary Martin Walsh.

"Thanks to Marylanders' resilience and tenacity, our state has seen a dramatic drop in COVID-19 cases, and we have reached the milestone set by President Biden of vaccinating 70% of adults. Businesses large and small across our state are reopening and hiring workers, but many are facing severe worker shortages. While we have experienced 12 straight months of job growth in our state, we will not truly recover until our workforce is fully participating in the economy."
- Letter from Governor Larry Hogan to Secretary Martin Walsh on June 1, 2021

Meanwhile, some private sector employees are offering sign on bonuses, to get people to send in their applications, like Guilford Hall Brewery.

The Brewery's marketing manager, Giovanna Bennett, says the incentives have gotten some attention.

"We have seen a little bit of an increase, but not much," she says. "It's been really hard, lately, hiring."

Right now, the Brewery, which hasn't had an official grand opening yet, is using catering staff to fill the empty positions.

And while Bennett says that part of the issue is that people are collecting a "good amount of money" from unemployment, Schwartz says, this is an example of the system working for the worker.

"$300 can be a lot for many people in this country, but at $300, we also have a lot of other effects, and many of them positive," says Schwartz. "It [gives] people time to find the job that's right for them."

Economist on Unemployment

Meanwhile, Sasha Trettin tells WMAR-2 News, it's going to be a while before she goes back to what she was doing before the pandemic.

Trettin was self-employed, doing landscaping and house cleaning jobs.

But when schools shut down, she had to stay at home with her kids.

"I ended up.. falling behind on rent," Trettin says. "I had to sell all my equipment and everything, just to be able to pay my bills."

Now, she's taking classes at the Horseshoe Casino, to become a black jack dealer.

Despite the two hour commute each way, she's grateful for the opportunity to rebuild her finances, to eventually restart her business.

"This is the best opportunity that I think I've ever come across," she says. " This is a lifetime changer."

But a job in another city is not an option for people who walk to work.

"When you do a criteria search in my area, there are no jobs coming up," Trettin tells us.

And she's had her own share of unemployment problems, telling us that back in March her unemployment account was hacked.

"I kept trying to contact unemployment over and over and over again, via email, on the phone, I would call the fraud line, everything," she says. "No one would respond, I couldn't get ahold of anyone."

An issue a lot of people across the state and country have had.

"We saw an unprecedented number of jobless claims that continued for really an unprecedented amount of time," says Schwartz. "And that did overwhelm Maryland's unemployment insurance agencies, as well as states across the country."

But, he added that "We're, luckily, I think, getting to a place where states have caught up to those issues."

To access the Maryland Department of Labor's Unemployment Insurance website, you can click here.

Meanwhile, the state will head to court tomorrow over the federal benefits set to expire on July 13th.