North Carolina’s two U.S. senators – Richard Burr and Thom Tillis – released the following statement on Wednesday, May 26. (emphasis is mine)

Today, Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) called on Governor Roy Cooper to address North Carolina’s employment shortage, which is harming small businesses across the state. The Senators released the following statement:

“The employment shortage caused by exorbitant federal unemployment benefits is a real and serious threat to North Carolina’s recovery.

“Over the last several weeks, we’ve heard from countless small, mid, and large-sized business owners across North Carolina struggling to hire enough workers to reopen this summer. Employers, particularly in hard-hit industries like tourism, service, and hospitality, are finding they can’t compete with excessive federal benefits. Time is running out for industries that rely on the summer season for a large portion of their business.

“We are still far away from reaching our pre-pandemic unemployment level, and it’s not because of a lack of jobs.

“Dismissing these concerns by telling employers to ‘pay more’ demonstrates an ignorance of the math at play. The business owners we’ve spoken to have offered higher wages and other incentives, despite operating on razor-thin margins. Even if a small business could afford to pay the progressives’ ideal of $15 per hour – and most can’t – it still wouldn’t be enough. A person making $15 an hour earns $600 for a 40-hour work week; expanded federal UI pays up to $650 for a zero-hour work week. It’s no wonder so many have delayed returning to work as long as possible.

“Governor Cooper needs to acknowledge the existence of a problem and take action to fix it. While the governor recently announced he will finally start reinstating the job search requirement, that’s merely enforcing existing law. It’s not enough. The governor should immediately end expanded federal unemployment insurance and focus on incentives to encourage more people to return to the workforce, as nearly half of states already have.

“Thanks to growing vaccinations and the heroic efforts of our health care workers, America is turning the tide in the fight against COVID-19. We won’t have truly recovered from this pandemic, however, until North Carolina’s economy and workers are back in full force.”