Nick Novak Expresses Concern About the Worker Shortage on Wisconsin Public Radio

MADISON – Wisconsin’s state-run job centers are back open for walk-in consultations with job seekers for the first time in more than a year.

The state Department of Workforce Development announced Tuesday that the centers, which closed most in-person services as a COVID-19 pandemic precaution early in 2020, have reopened their doors for in-person consultations. Services had been limited to appointment only.

The expansion of in-person services comes as more municipalities and private businesses in Wisconsin are lifting COVID-19 precautions such as mask mandates and gathering limits — and as employers across the state (and nationwide) are reporting difficulty filling available positions.

In many parts of the economy, including manufacturing and hospitality, employers have struggled to find enough workers to fill available positions.

Nick Novak, vice president of communications for the business lobbying group Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, said employers will welcome anything that helps on-the-fence workers to return to the job market. But according to WMC’s members, the single clearest obstacle to hiring more is the expanded federal unemployment benefit, a pandemic measure that offers the jobless an additional $300 per week in addition to their regular benefit.

“(Employers) are not only competing against each other for the talent that we have here in the state, but they’re also competing against government and the benefits that they’re providing,” Novak said.

Republicans have called on Gov. Tony Evers to stop offering the additional $300 per week benefit, which otherwise expires in September.

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