INDIANAPOLIS– People on unemployment in Indiana are going to need to prove they’re actively searching for jobs starting June 1.
It’s not a new requirement for these benefits, but the measure was waived during the pandemic due to the number of people out of work.
Right now, crickets can be heard at job fairs across the state and there are several theories why.
“The federal government is providing an additional $300 per week of federal unemployment benefits on top of the state,” explained Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.
Some people are making more on unemployment benefits than they would be working. Several states have refused federal benefits for that reason.
“We have encouraged the governor to look into that and he’s announced as we understand that he is going to study that as well,” said Brinegar.
All things considered, the unemployment rate in Indiana is pretty low, sitting under four percent.
However, experts say the pandemic reshuffled the workforce picking winners and losers when it comes to certain sectors.
“There are other sectors and potentially sectors that had basically employed some of those people that have been furloughed or let off during the pandemic that are actually well above pre-pandemic levels,” said IU Kelley School of Business Assistance Professor of Business, Economics and Public Policy Department Andrew Butters.
The Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association said the hospitality industry was one of the losers during COVID-19. It laid off more than 215,000 people in Indiana’s restaurants and 95 percent of its hotel employee base.
“Across the country, we have attempted job fairs virtual as well as in person both options, zero attendance, zero applicants,” said Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association President Patrick Tamm. “People need to be looking for work and taking comparable job offers.”
Indiana Democrats believe higher wages would help. Specifically, raising the minimum wage. State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary had a proposal to raise it to $15 an hour over five years didn’t get a hearing.
“I think that’s a conversation that we all need to come to the table for,” said Indiana Democratic Party Communications Director Drew Anderson. “At the end of the day, what democrats want to do is to provide those initial stepping stones that allow those Hoosiers that have two to three minimum wage jobs to have one minimum wage job that pays a livable wage.”
Tamm said minimum wage increases could negatively impact those who depend on tips.
“Those servers are often times walking out making $35 an hour and at some restaurants, servers make even more,” said Tamm. “Often times these wage conversations while well intentioned have the exact opposite impact.”
We asked Anderson if he supports a separate plan for tipping wages.
“That is a conversation that elected leaders here in the state and congress are having and there is something to be said there,” said Anderson.
Still, Tamm believes wages are not the problem.
“Wages are not an issue here, our wages have spiked, our wages have grown, free market is completely operating here, capitalism is, and people are getting paid,” said Tamm.
We asked Butters about the debate.
“If we need to see more employment then wages might need to go up,” added Butters.
The Indiana Chamber does not support increasing the minimum wage.
“We are seeing increases in wages in the marketplace and we are seeing increases in the cost of goods as well,” said Brinegar. “Let supply and demand work that out and have employers pay people based on the skills, knowledge and abilities they possess to do the jobs employers are looking for.”
“While I do definitely understand their viewpoint, unfortunately it’s loaded with a lot of myths and misinformation about the issue itself,” said Anderson.
He pointed to a resource Democrats have released on the party’s website for reference.
Regardless of why people aren’t searching for jobs right now, Hoosiers on unemployment will need to start looking June 1. Some of the requirements include proof of job fair attendance, applications and online workshops.
The Department of Workforce Development will contact affected Hoosiers about these updates. For more information, click here.