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'Help Wanted' Signs Are Everywhere, But Employers Still Having A Hard Time Attracting Workers

CHICAGO (CBS) -- "Help Wanted."

The signs are posted everywhere these days. But despite the need for workers, some business owners are struggling to fill the jobs. CBS 2's Chris Tye is Working for Chicago with some new insight into this hiring dilemma.

Business owners think pandemic unemployment benefits are enticing workers to stay off the job.

Restaurants are back. Summer jobs are open. Construction season is entering high gear. But the appetite to work, for many, remains in neutral.

Demand is through the roof right now for painting and construction in general. While customers are white hot to sign with contractors. Workers remain cool to the idea of getting back on the job.

"Everywhere I go, I'm seeing help wanted signs," said contractor Anthony Salvatori.

But even after Salvatori marks his job openings as "Urgently Hiring," the urgency isn't there.

"Out of 16 applicants, eight people are showing up," said Salvatori, of Steadfast Painting Solutions.

Why the lack of interest? Experts say:

• Pandemic Health Risks
• Child And Elder Care Pandemic Issues
• And Larger / Pandemic Sized Unemployment Benefits

"Of those different explanations, we don't know why yet why the labor market is tight," said Peter Ganong, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

But business owners think they know: the way that the government is providing people on unemployment with extra finances that's definitely making it difficult. On top of state benefits, there are three legs to federal pandemic benefits right now:

There's an $300 additional dollars per week. The duration of that benefit lasts longer than before. And Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA money, for those who are self-employed and have lost jobs and have extensive family obligations.

Those are the three legs and all three legs are currently scheduled to expire at the beginning of September.

Scheduled, meaning they could be extended.

One reason they might? When the last round ended last summer, the trial balloon didn't go well.

"When that supplement expired we found a drop-off in spending with no increase in workers going back to work," said Ganong.

A new coat of concerns for business owners who want to maximize on summer even if the workforce may be apt to wait until fall.

"Because of the difficulty in finding new employees, our guys are working longer days and pushed into overtime as well," said Salvatori.

Employers who didn't always offer overtime or signing bonuses are now offering them. Even if you're applying for a job that doesn't typically offer them, experts said it doesn't hurt to ask.

CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.

We'll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.

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