Murphy says added $300 is a factor in worker shortage — but only one of many

Governor cites many causes, including confidence in workforce to seek better job

Gov. Phil Murphy, as he has in the past, said the additional $300 of unemployment benefits are a contributing factor to the worker shortage in the state.

Murphy, speaking during his COVID-19 briefing Wednesday, did not address whether he would end the program early (spoiler alert: He won’t), but he did emphasize that the program will sunset eventually (Sept. 4).

“This is not a permanent reality,” he said.

Murphy said the additional $300 is just one contributing factor to the worker shortage — or, put another way, an unwillingness of some who are unemployed to seek employment.

“I think there are a number of factors; the economy is taking off at a much faster rate than the labor market can catch up,” he said. “Is the $300 added amount … a potential contributing factor? Yes.”

Murphy said child care, especially since children are no longer in school for even a hybrid day, also is a factor. As is a fear of going back to work because of the pandemic.

Even more, Murphy said there is a new reality around work.

“You’ve got folks who have developed completely different habits of how to work,” he said.

And, he said, economists will point to confidence as another factor.

When the economy is going down, Murphy said, people get discouraged and leave the workforce. It’s different when things are good — as they are in New Jersey and in many parts of the country, Murphy said.

“When it’s going up at the rate it’s going up, (people) leave the workforce with an element of confidence that they think they can upskill themselves to a better, higher-paying job,” he said. “And you’re seeing a lot of that, I think.”

Murphy said he is not concerned by a recent one-week spike in unemployment applications. He said it is the result of schools closing for the summer.