Addressing statewide workforce shortage

BISMARCK – North Dakota will terminate its participation in the federal government’s pandemic-related unemployment assistance programs, effective June 19, to help address the ongoing workforce shortage across the state, Gov. Doug Burgum announced on Monday.

North Dakota elected to participate in four unemployment-related programs in connection with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and Continued Assistance to Unemployed Workers Act of 2020.

The agreement that was signed to initiate these programs allows North Dakota or the U.S. Department of Labor to terminate the programs upon 30 days’ written notice to the other party. North Dakota’s written notice was provided on Monday.

“After fighting through severe stress and financial hardship, many North Dakota businesses that survived the pandemic are now facing an unprecedented labor shortage as they attempt to recover,” Burgum said. “These federal unemployment programs were meant to supplement state benefits and provide short-term relief for displaced and vulnerable workers, and these programs have accomplished their goals but are now counterproductive. Safe, effective vaccines have been available to every adult in North Dakota for months now, and we have an abundance of job openings with employers who are eager to hire.”

North Dakota had 16,396 online job openings in April, which was nearly 50 percent higher than the same period in 2020 and represents the state’s largest number of online job openings since July 2015, according to Job Service North Dakota.

Job Service North Dakota is currently drafting a publicity campaign called “JobUP ND” to focus on the wide variety of industries in need of workers. The campaign, slated to launch June 15, will also highlight the qualifications and training needed to get into those available jobs. An increased spotlight on the workforce’s current needs plus the ability for workers to easily transfer skills will benefit employers and job seekers alike.

State Democratic-NPL Chairman Patrick Hart issued a statement saying the governor’s action hinders pandemic recovery. He called on the governor to sit down with business owners, workers, unemploymenet recipients and union representatives to have a dialogue on the issue.

“Hard work for a fair, livable wage is what built North Dakota and what continues to drive the innovation we see in our state. What is not a part of our North Dakota values is kicking people when they are down and treating them viciously, instead of with unmatched kindness,” he said.


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