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Local unemployment figures declining, but some job seekers say they’re turning down jobs due to low-wage offers

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 10:55 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Although “Now Hiring” signs seem to be posted all over town, both employers and workers alike are saying hiring is a major difficulty at the moment.

While some potential employers say the enhanced unemployment benefits are making it hard to convince people to come back to work, some of those workers looking for jobs say they’re turning down offers because the wage being offered is too low.

“Trying to find a job in Bryan-College Station is extremely hard for the simple fact the pay is extremely low,” Bryan resident Heather Hampton said.

Hampton is a mother of two boys, one and two years old, who recently lost her job with Sanderson Farms. She says her job search has been difficult primarily because the offers she’s getting just aren’t enough to support her family.

“A lot of people offer like $10 or $11, but that’s about it as of right now,” Hampton said.

Hampton says other employers aren’t being flexible with her schedule so she can care for her kids. It puts her in a difficult position because she says child care is expensive, making low-wage offers even harder to seriously consider.

“A lot of these jobs don’t understand when you have a family and kids, and they want you to work weekends,” Hampton said. “That’s something I can’t do for the simple fact I don’t have any help as far as taking care of them.”

The most recent figure from March has the local unemployment rate at 5.3%. Brazos Valley Council of Governments Executive Director Michael Parks explains how heavily that figure has fluctuated over the past two years.

“This time two years ago in 2019, the unemployment rate was 2.1%,” Parks said. “Now that we’ve gone through the pandemic and we’ve been through all of that last year, in the middle of the event, this was just after the shutdown around spring break in April, it was 8.9%.”

According to the Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation, the local unemployment rate in April 2019 tied a historic low. After the unemployment rate essentially quadrupled a year later due to the shutdown, it was still the third-lowest among the state’s 25 metropolitan statistical areas, according to BVEDC data (the Bryan-College Station MSA includes Brazos, Burleson, and Robertson counties).

Pre-COVID, Parks says Brazos County had roughly 3,000 people with outstanding unemployment claims at this time two years ago. Right now, it’s up to about 20,000, but Parks says new unemployment claims are also starting to trend in the right direction, falling to 100 to 300 per week.

“They’re in three digits, not in four digits, so I’m liking what I’m seeing there,” Parks said. “Those are new claims, and you don’t like to see those, but at least they’re not in the thousands that we were seeing at one point.”

Some employers blame the enhanced unemployment benefits for the disconnect between open positions and workers looking for jobs.

“I can’t give you any evidence as we’re sitting here talking numbers and hard cold facts, but that is the prevailing wisdom,” Parks said.

Hampton says she isn’t receiving those extra benefits at the moment. But even if she was, she says that extra money wouldn’t keep her from rejoining the workforce.

“If they want to give it to me, I’ll definitely take it, but it’s not something I’m going to live on. It doesn’t take care of us,” Hampton said. “I mean, it’s a help. It’s a start, but it doesn’t last forever.”

Hampton says she’s going to keep looking for a job that pays well enough to take care of her kids, but she’s prepared to look outside of the area if she must.

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