Do hiring bonuses bring back workers? Duh. Chamber survey shows they do

You see the signs at almost every retail store: A promised signing bonus for those who agree to work. It’s just one effort companies are making to attract employees during a seemingly expanding worker-shortage crisis.

A recent survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce showed that such inducements work well.

Nearly 4 in 10 (39%) unemployed Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic and are not actively looking for work said a $1,000 hiring bonus would increase their urgency to return to full-time employment. It’s the most commonly cited response — one that scores higher than work-from-home flexibility (32%).

The percentage who said hiring bonuses could attract them back to the job market was particularly high among unemployed workers ages 25-34 (53%) and those with some college education, but not a degree (49%), the U.S. Chamber said.

Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said these incentives would be a good way government could help business.

“One of several important and immediate steps governors can take in encouraging unemployed, hesitant-to-return Americans to rejoin the workforce is investing federal relief funds in hiring incentive programs like return-to-work bonuses,” he said. “Too many businesses and communities across the nation continue to suffer amid the growing worker shortage. We are calling on every governor to take immediate action to help bring more Americans back into the workforce.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has commended those actions and encouraged more governors to consider using American Rescue Plan Act resources to help fund return-to-work bonuses. Several other states are currently considering taking similar measures.

Ten states — Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Virginia — have announced return-to-work-bonus offerings or similar financial incentives for workers to rejoin the labor force.

The issue is not a partisan one: Six of these states have Democratic governors, while four have Republican governors.

Methodology: The poll, taken May 17-20, includes responses of 506 Americans who lost jobs during the pandemic and have not returned to full-time employment. The poll has an overall survey margin of error +/-4.4 at the 95% confidence level, with stable and projectable bases across age, prior total compensation, ethnicity, incidence of children at home, industry sector and educational attainment.