The Summerland Advocate-Messenger - Reliable, Trustworthy Reporting, Capturing The Heartbeat Of Our Community

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By LuAnn Schindler

-Isms: Views on life in rural America


I’m not sure who first said this, but it’s true: You can’t have a million-dollar dream on a minimum wage work ethic.

I know it’s true. Teaching and freelancing both required a high level of energy, with long and unpredictable hours. The news cycle, along with business owner responsibilities, exist 24/7, and like my father-in-law told me, “You work twice as hard when you’re responsible to earn your own living.”

P.S. I’m not a millionaire … not yet (wink, wink) … and my million-dollar dream keeps expanding.

The world of work - and the lack of individuals proactively job searching - have been on my mind lately. Why?

Here’s the backstory. In December, I placed help wanted ads on the Nebraska Department of Labor job site, NEWorks. Sure, quite a few people sent online applications. When I called and offered interviews, I was turned down. Not surprised, since the majority of applicants resided in the metro area. It’s a bit tricky to sell advertising or write feature stories when you live three hours away and haven’t established a relationship with customers and readers.

Side note: A positive experience from posting online was connecting with a designer from Lincoln, who works remotely. She has done some work for us and, most likely, will continue to design a few print jobs and advertisements, as her schedule permits.

Since the pandemic started, unemployment laws across the country have relaxed, especially requiring the unemployed to document they have applied for a position. These requirements are being phased out as more people receive COVID vaccinations. And, a $300 boost in pandemic unemployment fees is scheduled to expire in September. Sen. Ben Sasse wants to shift benefits to hiring bonuses, if an individual accepts a position by the Fourth of July.

Nearly 2 million Americans are currently unemployed. Nebraska’s latest unemployment data, released May 21, shows 28,415 individuals - or 2.8% - are jobless.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one in four individuals currently receive more in unemployment benefits than when they were part of the labor force.

Our plight to find employees isn’t novel. I’ve spoken with multiple business owners from the area who are searching for, but not finding, employees. Restaurant workers in Lincoln’s Haymarket are shutting the doors, one day a week, to give their thinned-out waitstaff a day of rest.

A recent National Public Radio podcast from Consider This, discusses the plight of businesses - primarily from the restaurant and service industries - struggling to fill shifts.

It brings multiple questions to mind. Is it because people do not want to work for the wage offered? Can individuals make more money receiving unemployment benefits? Did the pandemic cause a mindset shift toward work? Are some individuals hesitant to return to the work force because they lack child care or a benefits package or fear of COVID? Should companies boost wages to attract workers?

Or, are there simply not enough people in the state to fill open jobs? Last week, 15,000 Nebraskans filed for unemployment benefits.

Many companies across the country are offering a cash sign-on bonus. The problem is, hiring someone and offering the bonus may not lead to a long-term gig. And, many larger companies are increasing starting wages, in hopes of attracting workers.

Small businesses, local mom and pop shops, need employees. Dependable employees. Jobs are available, so if you’re searching for a position, why not apply?

There’s a strong sense of satisfaction after completing a hard day’s work. That’s worth more than minimum wage.


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