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As employers scramble to find workers, job search requirement reinstated for unemployed

Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 11:10 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Beginning May 29, unemployment claimants will need to start attesting they are searching for work ― a requirement that was suspended during the pandemic.

The change comes as employers in the islands and nationally scramble to find workers, despite the high unemployment rate. Some fear that there are too many disincentives to getting back on the job.

In a news conference Wednesday, Gov. David Ige said the requirement is being reinstated because the public health crisis is easing up while the economy is revving up. Some 106,000 claimants will need to attest they are searching for work in order to continue getting unemployment benefits, officials said.

Claimants will need to start filing those reports on June 6.

[Related coverage: State closes unemployment call center at convention center for pest control]

The change comes as the unemployment rate in Hawaii stands at 8.5%. Nationwide, the unemployment rate is 6.1%.

The state is bringing back the requirement amid a national conversation about a labor shortage ― a seeming paradox with so many unemployed that reflects everything from a lack of childcare to concerns about COVID protections in the workplace to wages in entry level jobs.

Some have claimed that the federal $300 unemployment benefit that’s on top of the state’s unemployment amount is discouraging people from returning to work.

And a number of states have actually suspended that payout.

But the governor on Thursday said he had no plans to do so.

The Hawaii Restaurant Association says despite many openings at restaurants, no-shows at interviews are a problem. “OK, great, we’ll see you tomorrow and they don’t show up,” said Sheryl Matsuoka, executive director of the Hawaii Restaurant Association.

Meanwhile, an unemployed restaurant worker Dave Moscowitz agreed the reinstated reporting is a step in the right direction.

But he believes restaurant capacity limits and low pay are keeping people at home.

“If you can make what you made on unemployment and it’s not enough to pay your bills that doesn’t make any sense to go back to work,” he said.

The state says it will randomly investigate to keep claimants honest.

“Claimants do have to report and we do follow up on a random basis, but employers also have an opportunity to report refusal of work,” said Anne Perreria-Eustaquio, director of the Department of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Union workers and gig workers don’t have to do the extra filing and the state says lack of childcare is not an excuse to not look for work.

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