City, Coronavirus, News

Mass. unemployment remains high despite businesses reopening

As the state remains paused in Phase 3 of reopening, Massachusetts has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

For the month of July, Massachusetts had the country’s highest unemployment rate at 16.1 percent compared to the national rate of 10.1 percent. SHANNON DAMIANO/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Massachusetts’s unemployment rate for July was 16.1 percent, compared to the national rate of 10.2 percent, according to state data.

The state had the highest unemployment rate in the country for July of this year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Christopher Carlozzi, Massachusetts director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said many employees haven’t returned to work because they were receiving an extra $600 weekly Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefit from the federal government.

“I talked to several small business owners that were struggling to bring their workers back,” Carloozi said. “Some of their workers were making more to stay home on unemployment and didn’t want to come back into the workplace.”

He added that many parents aren’t able to return to work because they can’t access child care.

Massachusetts didn’t allow restaurants to reopen for indoor dining until June 22, three weeks later than in neighboring Rhode Island.

“When we were doing takeout, some of our neighbors were doing outdoor dining and then indoor dining,” Carloozi said. “It took us quite some time to catch up.”

Carloozi said an upcoming unemployment tax increase for businesses will slow their recovery.

Areas like Cape Cod and the Berkshires, he said, were some of the hardest-hit because they rely on tourism.

As work-from-home and virtual events become the norm, Carloozi said, closed offices and event spaces have hurt surrounding businesses.

“It’s a ripple effect through the entire economy,” Carloozi said. “You have empty office buildings throughout the city, so that means all those coffee shops or sandwich shops … they don’t have the same volume of customers.”

Carloozi said the state should allow recreation businesses like roller rinks and laser tag facilities to reopen.

“Those businesses are really at the end of their rope. They don’t know what they’re going to do,” Carloozi said. “Moving the reopening process along would help some of those businesses.”

Saïd Eastman, CEO and general manager of JobsInTheUS, said many essential businesses like grocery stores, healthcare providers and delivery services are hiring, despite the high unemployment rate.

He said some unemployed individuals aren’t looking for work because they know many businesses are closed and not hiring.

Job seekers should only apply to companies that genuinely interest them, Eastman said.

“It’s really imperative that job seekers do some homework on the businesses that they apply to,” Eastman said. “Make a list of companies that fit your model of what you want from an employer.”

Applicants should only apply to one position within a company at a time to avoid appearing desperate or unsure of their interests, Eastman said.

As for employers, he added that even with so many people seeking work, companies should grant the same respect to each applicant.

“Don’t take advantage of having the upper hand in the labor search,” Eastman said. “Treat your job seekers just as well as you treat your current employees.”

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