With the introduction of COVID-19 vaccinations, the economy is growing and companies are hiring, especially in the technology sector. But it is proving difficult to fill the modestly paying jobs that cannot be done at home.

Some employers raise wages. Uber is offering a “sign up bonus” of $ 1,000 to become a driver. Pilgrim’s Pride in Georgia advertises poultry factory jobs with rewards of up to $ 2,000.

Barnes Van Lines plans to hire eight workers for $ 14 an hour and drivers: two for smaller trucks for $ 17 an hour and four for tractor units for $ 25 an hour.

Currently, state unemployment benefits are $ 365 per week, while the federal government adds $ 300 on top. That works out to the equivalent of $ 16.63 an hour for a 40-hour week, undermining the hiring for everyone but the truck positions, New said.

Georgia labor commissioner, Mark Butler, says most of the people who received benefits were low-wage workers and are now earning more than they were in their time.

“It’s hard to compete with that,” he said. “Our major concern for the future is that companies won’t find enough people to hire and provide services.”

But unemployment benefits aren’t the only difference, said Daniel Zhao, chief economist at Glassdoor, which offers jobs, reviews, and research.

“Since this is not a normal crisis, there is no normal cause for a labor shortage,” he said. “Many workers are worried about going back to work or having to look after children or older family members.”

This move home disproportionately affects women, especially as many children are still learning from a distance. The U.S. economy employed 7.6 million fewer people in March than it did before the pandemic. However, according to Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed job exchange, the proportion of working mothers aged 25 to 54 has declined by 4.5 percentage points, compared with 3.3 percentage points for the total adult workforce.

The $ 300 weekly unemployment benefit does not include health insurance and is not generous enough to replace the income of higher paid workers. In addition, federal subsidies are due to expire in September.

Alicia Hornsby is a teacher whose school continued personal learning. She quit last year to be home with her own children in Canton after they switched to distance learning. A divorced mother of two, Hornsby has used up her savings and is months behind on her rent.

She applied for unemployment benefits and has been waiting for the urgently needed money for months. She is not alone – payments to thousands of unemployed Georgians have been delayed as the state Department of Labor struggles to keep up with requests.

Hornsby said the linchpin in her work schedules is when her children return to face-to-face classes. “I plan to teach again, hopefully by the next school year.”

The family can be a barrier to other work.

Marilyn Hatcher from Columbus looked after her handicapped, experienced father. She didn’t look for a job during the pandemic because she didn’t want a caretaker to come to her house for her father.

Now that they are both vaccinated, she hopes to qualify for a Veterans Administration program that monitors her father during the day. But she still hesitates.

“I now feel uncomfortable traveling and staying in hotels, especially with the new flavors of COVID and people who still don’t take the virus seriously,” said Hatcher.

April 15, 2021 Villa Rica – Joe Nowak (left) and Anson Strickland, workers at Barnes Van Lines, move a piece of furniture while a family is moving to Villa Rica on Thursday, April 15, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin @ ajc .com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia’s unemployment rate fell from 4.8% in February to 4.5% in March after the economy created 21,800 jobs last month, state officials said Thursday. But the state processed 38,382 new jobless claims in the week ending April 10, 4,759 more than the previous week and well above pre-pandemic levels.

Fear of the virus was a hurdle for Lisa Robinson from Rome.

As a self-employed person, she closed the office where she offered holistic health treatments, but can only do a fraction of the business online. Her carpenter is now weakened by a heart operation and, although she is at risk, does not work.

She is considering stepping out of the job market for good, applying for social security instead of risking personal work, she said. “A lot of people here think it’s a joke and refuse to wear a mask.”

Optimistic expectations about the economy shape the actions of those receiving unemployment benefits and mitigate any sense of urgency, said Kolko of Indeed. Job seekers can now be more confident of finding work in a few months than they would have been a year ago, he said.

ExploreIn March, a surge in jobs was added to Georgia’s economy

One of the most obvious workforce shortages is in trucking and logistics, an important part of Georgia’s economy that’s booming due to e-commerce, said Sandy Lake, director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, which is helping companies build their networks.

“Everyone who can deliver a package is in demand,” she said. “Driver pay is increasing.”

Driver replenishment has always been a problem, but recently it has remained well below demand, said Sam Pollard, director of fleet operations at Syfan Transport.

The growing Gainesville company plans to add nine drivers to its current stable of 25 this year, moving industrial goods across the South and Midwest.

“I’ve never missed a number, but I don’t know if I can add nine,” he said. “I’ve been in this business for 22 years and it was by far the toughest setting.”

The service sector, particularly the leisure and hospitality industries, accounted for the lion’s share of the job losses during the pandemic.

Many restaurants put most or all of their employees on leave when the pandemic forced them to close. With most of the restrictions lifted and many Georgians vaccinated, many are seeing a revival in business.

But many say they are still short of manpower.

“I have to do everything,” said Cam Vuong, owner of Canton House on Buford Highway. “Seven days a week and no ‘off’.”

An on-site restaurant at Mount Vernon Towers, a 300-unit residential complex in Sandy Springs, was also difficult to fill, said Scott Carriere, a condo board member. The condo was on leave of almost half of its 85-strong workforce at the start of the pandemic, but struggled to get it back when restrictions were relaxed.

“They just don’t answer calls,” said Carriere. “We call agencies and they say, ‘We can’t even find someone to send you.'”

Most jobs cost between $ 15 and $ 20 an hour, he said. The apartment wants to hire five or six people for janitorial and maintenance positions and also needs a bus driver.

“We’re paying more overtime for the people doing the work. And some things just don’t get done, ”he added.

Manufacturing is also looking for workers, especially in frontline positions.

Thomaston Mills in Thomaston has tried to hire about 10 people for various positions, including mechanics and machine operators, but it’s been slow progress, said co-owner Janet Wischnia.

“There are some people who are afraid of COVID, some have children at home, but most of the problem is that workers are getting an extra $ 300 a week and they don’t want to go back to work at that point,” she said.

Recruitment agencies, who often see trends first, have seen the demand surge that heralds growth, said Sara Kirby, area vice president of Randstad in Atlanta.

But they have also noticed a change in attitudes.

Unemployment benefits offer potential workers an opportunity to be selective, she said. “People want to go back to work, but they want to work for a competitive salary.”

– Ligaya Figueras contributed to this report.