Department of Labor rolls out new job referral program

Posted at 9:20 AM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 08:52:07-04

The Department of Labor has rolled out a new job referral program.

Department workforce consultants refer qualified people on unemployment to job openings posted on IdahoWorks. The Department of Labor says the referrals will be based on the skills and experience of the person. From there, they must apply for the job within two business days--otherwise they could risk losing unemployment benefits.

"Workforce consultants will email or call the employers to confirm the claimant applied for the position and will ensure they are complying with unemployment insurance work-seeking requirements," the Department of Labor announced. "The referrals are part of a federal re-employment and eligibility interview designed to connect unemployment insurance claimants with the resources they need to return to work as quickly as possible."

As Idaho News 6 has reported, work requirements are now back to what they were before the pandemic, according to the Idaho Department of Labor, which means if you're getting unemployment, you also have to be looking for full-time work.

On June 19, Idaho will stop participating in three federal pandemic unemployment compensation programs.

A news release from Governor Brad Little explained the decision is to help employers get people back on the job.

“Employers are telling me one of the big reasons they cannot recruit and retain some workers is because those employees are receiving more on unemployment than they would while working. We see ‘Help Wanted’ signs everywhere. Idaho has the strongest economy in the nation, and we are a top 10 state for best employment, but there is more we can do. It’s time to get back to work,” said Little. “My decision is based on a fundamental conservative principle – we do not want people on unemployment. We want people working. A strong economy cannot exist without workers returning to a job.”

On June 19, the following federal programs will end in the state:

  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation – provides an additional $300 weekly payment
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance – benefits those who would not usually qualify for unemployment, such as the self-employed and others
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation – extends benefits once regular benefits have been exhausted

Idaho hit historic high rates of unemployment last year--but according to the latest data from the Idaho Department of Labor, Idaho's unemployment rate is now resting at 3.1%.

Even still, some companies are struggling to fill open positions. Bob Vetter, Manager of the Idaho Department of Labor's Caldwell Branch, says it's become a competitive job market--in a different way than years past.

"In years past, recessions past, it's been the other way around--there were lots of job seekers looking for a small number of jobs," Vetter says. "Now it's the other way around and job seekers should come and take advantage."

Boise Dev reports Craig Shaul, research supervisor with the Idaho Department of Labor, said the workforce fought to keep up with demand from employers prior to the pandemic. Then, COVID-19 broke out and Idahoans left the workforce due to childcare issues, early retirements due to health concerns and some workers took advantage of training programs to step into higher-paying careers.

“There’s just a lot more competitors for that pool of workers employers are looking for,” Shaul told Boise Dev's Senior Reporter, Margaret Carmel. “They have higher wage opportunities now.”

According to IDOL, Idaho is the first state in the country to see job growth recover to and even exceed pre-pandemic levels in almost all industries. As a matter of fact, Idaho is one of only two states in the entire country that have had positive year-to-year job growth.

"Idaho has emerged from 2020 and the pandemic into 2021 as one of the least affected states in terms of job loss from the pandemic," explained Shaul. "The nation kind of had this dip and was averaging around 6 percent below where it was at the start of February 2020, and we're 1.3% as of March above where we were in February 2020."

Shaul says it's hard to pinpoint exactly one reason why Idaho's recovery has been so quick. Instead, he points to a variety of factors--including growth.

"Well it's just that Idaho seems to have the magic ingredient," Shaul explained. "It has open spaces, it was already growing really fast before the pandemic hit--we were at low unemployment with nonfarm jobs growing faster than we anticipated and we have a steady influx of people moving into the state to keep that growth going."