Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is still among the worst in the nation, and yet tens-of-thousands of jobs are open. Too many young, healthy adults are remaining at home while collecting seemingly endless unemployment and other government benefits. 

Where’s the urgency to fix this in Harrisburg? 

Taxpayers are being harmed in two ways. First, our tax dollars are paying people not to work. The government is not even asking them if they bothered to look for work before handing over their neighbors’ money. It’s bad economics and it’s un-American.

Second, every business that cannot operate at 100 percent, whether due to staffing or supply shortages, is generating less tax revenue for state and local budgets and remains in danger of closing. Worse yet, most of the businesses that cannot operate at full capacity are those that were hardest hit due to the Covid-lockdowns and capacity limits.  

In sports, there’s analytics and then there’s the “eye-test.” You can look up Rhys Hoskins’ batting average or you can watch 10 at-bats and know how he looks. The same is true in our economy. 

We know the data, and it’s been bad in Pennsylvania. But just as importantly, we know reality—the “eye test.” Walk down the main shopping districts in West Chester, Phoenixville or Exton and you can see the help wanted signs or the newly taped-up signs announcing reduced hours of operation.

Yet, the governor, his labor department and others in Harrisburg seem to be either oblivious, uncaring, or perhaps mistakenly think that sending more checks is a solution and not a cause of the problem.  

On May 24, the acting state labor secretary announced in a press release that on July 8 the department would start requiring those on unemployment to look for work. Almost seven full weeks after the announcement and a year after our economy started to reopen after the governor’s shutdown. This is compounded by Pennsylvania being among the minority of states that is still offering the $300 federal unemployment bonus to those not working. So, many are being paid up to 100% of the wages Not to work.

The message from the Wolf administration is clear: If you don’t want to work, feel free to stay at home and collect unemployment. If you work and pay taxes, thanks but we aren’t going to use your tax dollars to improve the economy, for needed public infrastructure projects, or to cut you a break despite a huge influx of revenue.

This approach is both ineffective and not based in common sense or the reality in our towns. Yet, sadly, this is how the governor, his labor department and far too many in the legislature have governed the entire Covid era. Even at the heights of the lockdowns, when most Pennsylvanians were not allowed to work, tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians waited up to 10 months to get their unemployment checks–their only potential source of income due to government restrictions. No true compassion. No urgency.

Business and civic leaders have had enough. Small businesses are at the breaking point. They don’t want “hero” signs, congratulations, or sympathy. They want the chance to operate fully, to run their businesses, and to hire.

The time is now—not July 8—to change our unemployment rules to match those in 40 other states, so that Pennsylvanian can truly reopen. Then, we can discuss the next equally important challenge: getting our state’s economy out of the bottom 10 and into the top 10.

Small business has a message for Gov. Wolf and Harrisburg: Lead, follow or get out of the way.

Guy Ciarrocchi is the CEO at the Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry. Learn more at JoinChescoChamber.org

3 thoughts on “Guy Ciarrocchi: PA unemployment remains unacceptably high — where’s the urgency in Harrisburg?”

  1. How do you feel about the GOP’s recent power grab from Wolf re: emergency orders resulting in a huge hit to small businesses when bars were no longer allowed to sell drinks to go? Those bars could really have used the business that the lifting this red tape provided.

    I guess the GOP prioritizes their own political power over helping small businesses. Very sad.

    1. Drinks to go expiring is a red herring. How come the restaurant business was growing before COVID without the drinks to go allowance? DTG is a nice to have, but not a survival issue. I heard one of the lobbyists in favor of DTG saying that bringing it back will not be a quality of life issue because the open carry laws are still around. These are one of a list of laws that the DA in Philadelphia will not prosecute.

  2. I would LOVE to go back to my work, but you see they tore down the oil refinery I worked at for almost 3 decades and laid off 1100+ of us…Gov. Wolf, Senator Larry Farnese, Mayor Jim Kenney actually worked to help close it up…Then during Lockdown refineries dipped into the negative and started closing up, while the AOC Greens egged various special interest groups into getting pipelines shut down and cheered every refinery closure…So I have to ask after 3 decades: Where now can I utilize my heavy industry skills to make even two thirds of the pay and benefits I need to just break even?…And no — waiting tables and staffing at the checkout counter is not going to make up for everything I have lost…

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