We’ve all seen it, two words written in bright red letters, posted at the front of nearly every hardware store, grocer or boutique in town: “Help Wanted.”

While some in the White House want to pass off the current labor shortage as an anomaly, Tennesseans know better. We have a labor crisis.

April’s jobs report revealed that the forces driving our economy are coming to a screeching halt. Job growth expectations fell drastically short, and unemployment rates climbed above 6%.

In the Volunteer State, we boast five available jobs for every one person on unemployment. No one bears the burden of this unemployment trend more than our small business owners.

Last week, I spoke with Jon Hargett, founder and president of Pavement Restorations Inc., who explained that demand for construction jobs increased 35% during the pandemic.

In spite of this, his business is struggling to find the employees he needs to meet the expanding need.

What caused this problem? As Hargett said, “Government has become my competition.” He’s right.

Stimulus checks and unemployment bonuses were never meant to be a permanent solution.

The first few rounds of bipartisan bills were intended to support communities facing unprecedented need.

Now, the near-constant stream of checks and bonuses have become competition for local businesses.

As more Americans are getting vaccinated and mask mandates are lifted, Democrats keep trying to force through more and more funding.

At this point, their efforts are a blatant attempt to boost dependency and tether more Americans to the federal safety net on which they no longer need to rely.

More money won’t fix this problem. Business owners like Hargett have already increased their starting pay. Hargett described that even offering $23 an hour, “folks aren’t interested in coming in the door.”

That doesn’t stop some in Washington from pushing for more unemployment bonuses. Policymakers demanding this boost are out of touch with what the economy actually needs.

In our state, owners like Hargett are pleading to big government, “[We] just need this to be over.”

Across Tennessee, business owners are struggling to persuade folks to rejoin the workforce, but this isn’t their fault.

Rather than doling out government bonuses to push people to stay at home, we should be encouraging Americans to start working again.

Policymakers can no longer ignore the jobs crisis they created.

They need to listen to business owners, end big government bonuses and get America back to work.


MARSHA BLACKBURN is Tennessee’s senior U.S. senator. She is a Republican from Brentwood who may be reached at www.blackburn.senate.gov.

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