Maryland’s economy added 3,800 jobs in April and the state’s unemployment rate remained at 6.2%, according to preliminary data released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday morning.

By contrast, Maryland added 13,100 jobs in March. The national unemployment rate is at 6.1%. The unemployment rate does not include those who no longer are getting unemployment benefits and stopped looking for work.

What is the reason for the recent slowdown in the state’s job growth? Are enhanced unemployment benefits to blame including Medicaid benefits as opposed to jobs that offer no health care benefits or not enough money to pay for Obamacare?

“There is concern that we have jobs that aren’t being filled as we continue to jumpstart the economy. However, I think unemployment benefits are not the sole reason for people not returning to work,” Howard County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Leonardo McClarty told MarylandReporter.com.

McClarty added: “Covid has caused deep reflection and for some, this means a change in career or at least a change in a professional environment. For others the issue is childcare. The impact of virtual schooling cannot be understated and for many, it is hard to return to a job if you don’t have adequate childcare or if your school-age children are home. I like to think that some things will change by fall as kids return to school and we have more traditional school days.”

At least one unemployed person who asked that her name not be used, said jobs that are being offered do not offer health insurance. Or they do not pay enough to cover health insurance such as Obamacare. She said Medicaid is covering her needs and it’s hard to give that up because it could impact her life. “No one is talking about this as one of the reasons why people don’t want to go back to work.”

Frederick County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Weldon said enhanced unemployment benefits are just one of many factors that are preventing some Marylanders from returning to work.

“It’s nearly impossible to determine the exact percentage impact of enhanced UI benefits on a slower jobs report, but it’s undeniable that it’s having some impact, especially on the lowest wage rate categories. I think there are a number of factors related to the pandemic, including unemployment benefits, fear of infection, and a lack of trust due to people who refuse the vaccine. We need to continue to encourage unvaccinated people to obtain a COVID shot. That’s the best way to ensure a return to semi-normal for our businesses and employers.”

Washington County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Paul Frey echoed similar sentiments.

“The federal enhanced unemployment benefits, in place until the end of September, is definitely a factor in keeping some of those previously employed from returning to work. In addition, some of the CARES Act benefits being paid to families for the next ten months, for each eligible minor child, provides extra income, as well.”

Frey also pointed to health-related concerns as another reason why some Marylanders have not yet returned to work.

“Further impacting the slower job growth is the situation where some parents are staying home with their school-aged children in areas where they are still doing virtual schooling. And, as has been cited previously, even though they have received their vaccine, some people are still not comfortable going out in public, for fear of themselves or their younger children of being exposed to COVID.”

Maryland Retailers Association President Cailey Locklair said work search requirements for unemployment insurance recipients, which are scheduled to be reinstated next month, are critical to getting more Marylanders back to work.

“Our organization and the business community has strongly been advocating for full reinstatement of search requirements. Unfortunately, there are many stores and restaurants cutting down their hours of operation or closing entirely because they cannot find enough people to work.”

There are 457,527 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Friday morning, according to the state’s Department of Health, and 8,782 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is at 2.07%, which is within CDC recommended guidelines for containment. Maryland has conducted more than 10.2 million COVID-19 tests.

Maryland’s health care providers have administered more than 5.8 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine. That includes 3,094,723 (51.189%) first doses and 2,490,814 (41.2%) second doses. More than 2.7 million people in Maryland are fully vaccinated, which is about 45% of the state’s total population.

Timothy W. Maier contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on MarylandReporter.com on Friday, May 21, 2021.


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