Jul 14, 2021 - Economy

Poll: 1.8 million Americans have turned down jobs due to unemployment benefits

Reasons for turning down job offers while unemployed
Data: Morning Consult; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

About 1.8 million out-of-work Americans have turned down jobs because of the generosity of unemployment insurance benefits, according to Morning Consult poll results released Wednesday.

Why it matters: U.S. businesses have been wrestling with labor supply shortages as folks capable of working have opted not to work for a variety of reasons.

  • One of the more politically controversial reasons has been the availability of unemployment insurance benefits, in particular emergency provisions that were introduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Indeed, 26 states opted to cut emergency benefits early with the intention of incentivizing people to take open jobs.

By the numbers: Morning Consult surveyed 5,000 U.S. adults from June 22-25, 2021.

  • Of those actively collecting unemployment benefits, 29% said they turned down job offers during the pandemic. In response to a follow-up question, 45% of that group said they turned down jobs specifically because of the generosity of the benefits.
  • Extrapolating from the 14.1 million adults collecting benefits as of June 19, Morning Consult concluded that 1.8 million people turned down job offers because of the benefits.

To be clear, this is in regards to any and all unemployment insurance benefits including the standard 26 weeks worth of benefits as well as the emergency benefits that are set to end by September.

  • Furthermore, all 1.8 million won’t necessarily find employment quickly as jobs once offered to them may have been filled by others.

What they’re saying: Morning Consult chief economist John Leer cautions against concluding that this completely validates calls to cut unemployment benefits early.

The bottom line: "Getting people to move from relying on unemployment insurance to wage income doesn't just automatically happen," Leer tells Axios. "There's going to be some searching and matching frictions at work."

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