When C&S Supply posted job openings in the past, the store usually had no problem getting applicants.

But when management recently needed to fill a position, the situation was different.

“We finally got someone hired, but it’s been a long process,” said Robin Schendel, assistant manager.

“Even going through employment agencies, there weren’t a lot of people to choose from.”

The issue for employers who need to hire is that people collecting unemployment benefits have been getting a $600 per week added payment, part of the congressional CARES bill that pumped more than a trillion dollars into the economy.

“Can you blame people?” Schendel asked about candidates holding off on getting a new job when they may be getting more from unemployment than they would take home from a retail job.

As many as 64% of the people laid off nationwide as a result of COVID-19 will get more money if they stay on unemployment through July 31 — when the federal payments end — than if they continued working at their old job, according to a study done in May by the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago.

Once the bonus payments end, the unemployed will have to rely on state weekly benefits that average $370, according to Goldman Sachs estimates.

Schendel expects that when the federal benefit ends, it will be easier to find employees.

The difficulty in hiring came as C&S, which has 38 employees and sells ag supplies, hardware and clothing, saw its business pick up considerably.

“We were listed as essential right off the bat, and we’ve been doing triple the business in some categories because of people staying home. Grills and fire pits have been through the roof. We sold more the first month than we usually do in a year,” Schendel said.

“It’s been good business. It’s not the way you want to have business pick up, because of COVID, but you take it.”

He said trying to get resupplied has been a challenge as manufacturers and warehouses try to catch up on restocking hot items.

John Considine, business development resource manager at Greater Mankato Growth, said difficulty in hiring has been a common comment by local employers.

GMG has been doing outreach with more than 600 businesses asking them how sales, supply chain, employment and other issues are going.

“We’ve been hearing that there’s a challenge in hiring, particularly in the trades.

“If people feel safer at home right now and are making more money, it’s hard to address the shortages in employment,” Considine said.

“After July (when the $600 payments end), we’ll see if getting people back to work will happen organically or what employers will need to make that happen.”

GMG has been working with the state Department of Employment and Economic Development and with employment agencies. “We’ve been providing them information so they can find the correct tools for ramping up employment. They live and breathe employment.”

Patrick Baker, GMG vice president and director of government and institutional affairs, said that as Congress has begun discussing a fourth coronavirus relief package, there have been some discussions of extending the $600 unemployment benefit beyond July.

“It’s being discussed but I’m not sure if that will be in the final bill,” Baker said. “The last I saw was the administration and the Republicans in the Senate were pretty adamantly opposed, so I don’t expect that to have legs to extend it.”

Still he said that as Democrats and Republicans craft proposed legislation — expected to happen in late July — anything can happen. “There’s a lot of negotiations to go.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said the next stimulus bill will be focused on getting people back to work.

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