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Open positions not impacting jobless rate

OBSERVER file photo As part of a nearly $90 million expansion plan, Wells Food Corp. has numerous job openings at its Dunkirk plant.

Hollow campaign promises of years past appear to have come home to roost. When seeking municipal or county office, the message most likely heard often from candidates focused on bringing jobs to Chautauqua County.

Despite what this week’s most recent state figures noted, it seems current state Sen. George Borrello had it right when he began his term as Chautauqua County executive in 2017. As part of his first 100 days in office, Borrello visited more than 100 area businesses and found a common theme: the jobs are already here. What we need are some workers.

No business or taxpayer-funded agency appears to be off the hook in the recent glut. School districts need teachers and aides. Manufacturers need employees on production lines. Restaurants need cooks and servers.

According to U.S. Census figures, nearly 41% of the 127,000 residents living in this county are either 18 and under or 65 and older. That already limits the number of people available to work in our region to just under 75,000.

Taking a closer look at the March state report notes nearly 50,000 residents here are in the workforce with about 3,800 — or 7.4% — being out of work.

That latter number is hard to fathom when you consider the openings in the north county alone at Refresco and Wells, which through bonus offers, are practically begging for applicants to walk through the doors.

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand introduced legislation that would utilize the tax code and federal grants, loans and contracts to end the outsourcing of jobs overseas. As the economy recovers from the COVID-19 crisis, the End Outsourcing Act would enact a new tax benefit to help companies bring good-paying manufacturing jobs back to America and re-employ millions of Americans who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

“We have to level the playing field for New York’s workers and invest in American companies in order to rebuild our economy. The pandemic has put millions of Americans out of work and we can no longer allow manufacturing companies to cut more family-supporting jobs in favor of cheap labor and higher profits overseas,” Gillibrand said. “Enacting common-sense policies that return outsourced jobs, and prevent outsourcing in the future, will provide a new path for the middle class to recover.”

This, by the way, does nothing to solve the current American dilemma that is quite evident here. How do we get those who are choosing to stay home back to work?

Unfortunately, there is a sentiment that our government — both federal and state — have made it a bit too easy. It all began at the beginning of the pandemic. As shops began to close due to lack of customers and restrictions, additional benefits to the tune of $600 a week began flowing in for those who were laid off.

Once those benefits expired, a new offer of $300 per week was approved. It has created a conundrum of sorts for those who may be needing those funds but not contributing through labor.

“Right now what seems to be happening is that job creation is outpacing the search effort that workers are putting forth,” Ioana Marinescu of the University of Pennsylvania recently told The New York Times. “Compared to how people reacted last spring, it’s not that long ago, but the situation has changed a bit.”

One of the largest downsizings to occur in recent memory took place between 2013 to 2015 when ConAgra closed food-processing plants in Silver Creek, Dunkirk and Fredonia. Within those three years, more than 550 jobs in the north county were eliminated.

Some of those employees retired, others found work at area companies while some went elsewhere for new opportunities.

These individuals exemplified the American values of putting in a hard day’s work. Seeing the signs, billboards and advertisements that plead for candidates has to make business leaders and elected officials wonder. Have we made it too easy — and beneficial — to be out of work?

John D’Agostino is the editor of the OBSERVER, The Post-Journal and the Times Observer in Warren, Pa. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 253.

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