Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The job search just got a little bit sweeter. 10% of small businesses this past quarter have offered — for the first time — to repay a part of student loans, relax drug policies or hire ex-cons, according to the latest CNBC and SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey. Reeling from the 3.7% unemployment rate, businesses large and small have also raised wages and benefits.

The big picture: To fill a whopping 7.1 million job openings the tightest labor market in a half-century, employers are loosening their requirements and raising traditional benefits to lure workers.

Impact: "Workers are the bigger winners as the labor market tightens," Indeed's Chief Economist Jed Kolko tells Axios.

By the numbers:

  • 12% of small businesses offered student loan repayment as a new benefit in the last quarter.
  • 14% relaxed their drug policies.
  • 12% considered candidates with a criminal record for the first time.

These numbers show small businesses are increasingly tracking with cultural shifts affecting current job seekers: an increasingly indebted workforce, a growing number of states legalizing Marijuana use, and an unemployment rate among ex-felons that's more than 7 times higher than the national average.

Why it matters:

  • These survey results place small businesses ahead of the curve on student loan repayment. While 12% of small businesses experimented with offering this benefit this quarter, only about 4% of companies overall offer student loan repayment benefits, per the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2018 Employee Benefits Report.
  • Labor force participation rates have dropped in areas where opioid prescription rates are high over the last 15 years, Axios’ Caitlin Owens reports, and as Americans take advantage of legalized Marijuana in several states, employers may have a vested interest in overlooking prior or current drug use to broaden their pool of candidates.
  • Unemployment for former felons was 27% earlier this year, per The Prison Policy Initiative’s estimates (there are no federal figures for former felons' unemployment), yet most human resource managers report they would consider hiring those who have been incarcerated (only about 14% of human resource managers say they won’t consider it), per a report by the Society of Human Resources Management.

Yes, but: While firms are debuting these new practices, there has also been a shift in bargaining power toward employers. Weaker unions, outsized firms and more noncompetes "make it harder for workers to look for and get outside offers," Kolko tells Axios.

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Hurricane Isaias makes landfall in North Carolina

People walk through floodwaters on Ocean Blvd. in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on Monday. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Hurricane Isaias made landfall as a Category 1 storm near Ocean Isle Beach in southern North Carolina at 11:10 p.m. ET Monday, packing maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, per the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

What's happening: Hurricane conditions were spreading onto the coast of eastern South Carolina and southeastern N.C., the NHC said in an 11 p.m. update. Ocean Isle Beach Mayor Debbie Smith told WECT News the eye of the storm triggered "a series of fires at homes" and "a lot of flooding." Fire authorities confirmed they were responding to "multiple structure fires in the area."

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 18,224,253 — Total deaths: 692,679 — Total recoveries — 10,865,548Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 4,713,500 — Total deaths: 155,401 — Total recoveries: 1,513,446 — Total tests: 57,543,852Map.
  3. Politics: White House will require staff to undergo randomized coronavirus testing — Pelosi says Birx "enabled" Trump on misinformation.
  4. Sports: 13 members of St. Louis Cardinals test positive, prompting MLB to cancel Tigers series — Former FDA chief says MLB outbreaks should be warning sign for schools.
  5. 1 🎥 thing: "Tenet" may be the first major film to get a global pandemic release.

Exclusive: Trump declines to praise John Lewis, citing inauguration snub

President Trump dismissed the legacy of the late Rep. John Lewis in an interview with “Axios on HBO,” saying only that Lewis made a “big mistake” by not coming to his inauguration.

The big picture: Trump's comments were a glaring contrast with the praise Republicans and Democrats showered upon Lewis this week, and a default to personal grudges during a week of mourning for a civil rights hero.