SALT LAKE CITY – Last week downtown bar and bistro owner Kirk Bengtzen waited for about two dozen job interviewees—but only four showed up. Wednesday, he scheduled seven interviews and didn't hear from any of them.
"Holy cow, trying to get people to even show up to an interview is beyond ridiculous," the Twist Bar Bistro owner said.
Bengtzen is trying to expand and needs to hire about 30 people and suspects that enhanced unemployment benefits are the reason people are turning down his job offers.
"A lot of times they're saying, 'Well, I can't guarantee that I'm going to make as much with you as with unemployment so I'm just going to pass,'" he said.
Because of the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in March, those on unemployment are eligible for an extra $300 a week until September 4th.
Bengtzen said he understands that there are legitimate causes for unemployment but said he is wasting time and resources on applicants who aren't serious.
"We're promoting people to not work and that just doesn't make sense," Bengtzen said.
Unemployment benefit recipients in Utah are required to complete active job searching, according to the Department of Workforce Services.
"A person who is on unemployment insurance must report four unique job contacts every single week or else they become ineligible and another thing is that they cannot refuse work," said Kevin Burt, the department's assistant deputy director.
Burt said that the Unemployment Insurance Division will look into reports of individuals turning down work to keep receiving weekly benefits. Businesses can submit a request for an investigation on the division's website.
"Refusing work will disqualify individuals from unemployment insurance and so it's really important that people who are receiving it and employers who are offering jobs are aware of that and report any instances of it," Burt said.
However, Burt said there are other explanations for businesses having a difficult time hiring. First among them is that Utah is starting to reach pre-pandemic levels of employment. Also, during the pandemic workers may have shifted to different industries or gone back to school.
"Certainly, it is going to be a competitive market for employers who are looking for employees with a 2.9% unemployment rate," he said.