Detroit Regional Chamber > Chamber Urges State Leaders to Incentivize Returning to Work

Chamber Urges State Leaders to Incentivize Returning to Work

June 15, 2021
Michigan businesses have shown remarkable resiliency in the face of public health and economic challenges. However, it is clear from the ongoing labor shortage that a full recovery requires additional solutions. In the spirit of finding solutions, Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber, joined Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Congresswoman Haley Stevens, and Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter at a press conference in Troy on June 14, to discuss a proposed $300 a week back-to-work incentive and expanded child-care solutions.

The innovative use of unemployment funds and the Work Share program will be important tools employers can use to help incent workers back to the workplace and is consistent with the goals of the Chamber’s 100k by Labor Day Back to Work proposal.

Understanding the dynamics of what is causing this labor shortage is complex, which is one of the key reasons the Chamber commissioned a statewide poll in late May. The state’s workforce is about 11% smaller now compared to the start of the pandemic, partly because of people on unemployment but also because of people deciding to leave the workforce altogether. Results from the poll matched data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that show a sharp decline in the labor force.

  • First, 89% of Michiganders who were employed prior to the pandemic are employed today, either in the same job or a new one.
  • About 4% of those employed prior to the pandemic are not looking for work today – with about 7% reporting they are looking for work or waiting to be called back by their pre-pandemic employer.
  • Of this 4% who are not looking for work:
  • Over a third reported it was it was a health issue; either their age or lack of confidence in the ability to stay safe at work that is preventing them from going back to work.
  • 14% reported a lack of good pay, and
  • Almost 9% reported an issue related to child-care.

“We think anything that is going to expand our workforce is really going to help businesses get people back on the job and provide the level of services their customers have come to expect over the years,” said Williams.

The Chamber believes that an incentive for new hires will also be important to meet employers’ needs for workers. While the supplemental federal unemployment benefits may not be the sole driver of this workforce shortage, clearly, pay is also an issue.  A change in the law is required to expand the incentive beyond eligible returning employees, and the payments are only available to employers who are part of the state’s work-share program.

“The legislature knows that businesses are clamoring for talent. They hear it when they go home, and we’re going to continue to talk to them about why incentive programs like this are important,” Williams said.