Mayors: Time to kick the unemployed in the keister

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This is going to sound counterintuitive at a time when the state’s unemployment rate is hovering above 10 percent, but the mayors of a couple of small Indiana cities say there are a lot more job openings than one might think. The problem, say Wayne Seybold of Marion and Brad DeReamer of Greenfield, is that too many jobless folks would rather collect unemployment checks than go back to work.

Three Marion companies have called Seybold in the past few months complaining that workers laid off during the recession won’t come back now that business is better; the workers say they won’t return until they’ve used up their allotted 99 weeks of unemployment.

While organizing a job fair a couple of months ago, a Marion pastor found 951 available jobs in Grant County alone, Seybold says. The county typically runs at about 27,000 jobs, suggesting roughly one of every 29 positions is available.

Seybold isn't unsympathetic. People with jobs should remember how hard it can be to go back to work after even a week of vacation, he says.

Still, he adds, “In today’s work force, they’re not prepared to take a job they don’t want to take. We gotta have some tough love.”

DeReamer says Greenfield is struggling to fill a vacancy in the animal management department that involves catching and euthanizing animals and cleaning cages. It isn’t pleasant work, he admits, but do the math. The job pays $576 a week while the maximum unemployment check in Indiana is $390. Subtract the taxes from the job and it doesn’t make a lot of economic sense to set an alarm.

Last month an applicant with a promising resume told the city he applied for the animal management job to stay eligible for unemployment but had no intent of actually accepting.

DeReamer thinks it would be a mistake to extend unemployment benefits again when they expire at the end of November because the bandage has become worse than the wound.

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development has logged thousands of complaints on a new Web page where people and businesses can report, shall we say, the labor-averse. When the complaints check out, the department yanks their benefits and collects the overpayments.

The mayors’ experiences are highly anecdotal. (Both are Republicans, by the way.) A good labor economist would come up with a more accurate and nuanced picture.

Caveats aside, what’s your reaction to their point that the unemployed need a kick in the pants?

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