Episode 2: Unemployment

Podcast Guests

photo of Leighann Lovely

Leighann Lovely

SITE Staffing, Inc.

photo of Liza Gonzales

Liza Gonzales

SITE Staffing, Inc.

Leighann Lovely 0:07
Welcome to HRables: HR in Bite-Sized pieces. I’m Leighann Lovely and today we will dive into unemployment. We are living in confusing times. This is affecting businesses of all sizes. So today I have Liza Gonzales, our own in house expert, to talk to me about how these are changing. Liza joined SITE Staffing in 2006, making this her 15th year with SITE Staffing. She is a branch manager at our West Allis location, she comes with 23 years in the HR industry. Not only is she responsible for unemployment, but she also spends her days working here with her staff to recruit for all of our open positions that we have. She is also on our COVID Task Force and is responsible for writing policies and hiring our internal staff. So welcome, Liza. I’m excited to have this conversation.

Liza Gonzales 1:01
Well, thank you for having me, Leighann.

Leighann Lovely 1:05
So why don’t we jump right in? So what does unemployment measure? And, you know, what are the current unemployment rates?

Liza Gonzales 1:16
You know, to be honest, I’ve given up on how they measure or what they measure and just kind of look at what we’re seeing. And there are a lot of people unemployed, but not seeking work.

Leighann Lovely 1:37
So give me a rundown of what has transpired with unemployment over the last year, specifically how the government has stepped in to assist those in need, who have either been furloughed, laid off, or altogether just lost their jobs.

Liza Gonzales 1:53
Well this, as far as unemployment activity goes has been so much busier than in 2008, when we had the recession, there’s so many more people. But I think the difference is then benefits were running out and people were really looking to go to work, so we had people applying like crazy. Now, we don’t have them applying. And I think the government has a lot to do with that. Two reasons, I mean, there’s two ways of looking at it. The government is giving extra hundreds of dollars a month benefits on top of the state, which is not a motivator for someone to go back to work if they can stay home and not go back to work. On the other hand, it gives people the peace of mind that they don’t have to make that decision to either stay home and be healthy or risk their health to be able to feed their family.

Leighann Lovely 2:57
Okay, that and that makes sense. And it’s a great thing that the government has offered. So what are some of those benefits looking like right now?

Liza Gonzales 3:08
Well, they started off with an extra $600 a week. And then that ran out and they went to the $300 extra a week. And that’s where they are right now through I believe September. So that’s just for unemployment. But there’s other measures helping people as lots of extra food stamps, the $1,400 stimulus, the housing. I just heard recently that people are allowed to get $1,000 apartments for $20, and the government will supplement the rest. So unemployment and other things are really allowing people to stay home and not go to work.

Leighann Lovely 3:54
Okay. Wow. So what impact Have you seen, you know, this have on, obviously, you know, getting some of these people into jobs or getting, I guess, some of the positions that we have filled.

Liza Gonzales 4:12
It’s made it very, very difficult. We have hundreds of open jobs, paying between $12 and $17 an hour. We’ve seen clients who used to pay $12 now paying $15. Who used to pay $14 now paying $17. Doing anything to get candidates in the door. Many have dropped drug screens have dropped High School requirement, have dropped background checks, just to find people that want to work. And that’s difficult.

Leighann Lovely 4:53
I can understand that. Okay, so what advice do you have for companies, you know, dealing with high amounts of unemployment claims and navigating through this, you know, over the next, sounds like at least through September.

Liza Gonzales 5:17
I guess the most important thing is when you do have somebody claiming unemployment, you’re going to have likely someone from the department, an adjudicator, investigate it. As soon as you see that happening, get all your information together. It helps all parties. If you have your information together that the adjudicator needs, they don’t have to keep calling back repeatedly for more information. This helps you get it off your desk, the adjudicator get off their desk, and the person waiting for their unemployment to get that sooner. So it helps everyone if you just jump to things quickly, and always, always document well.

Leighann Lovely 6:01
And when you say document well you’re talking about the, the entire process of them being employed with you, or the end of employment, or what do you mean by a document well?

Liza Gonzales 6:13
I’m an HR person, so I say everything. From the time they walk in the door, do their online application, everything should be documented, you know, every call, you know, some may have sent you a text while you’re at the grocery store, “I won’t be in tomorrow”. And you forget about it, because you didn’t document it. The supervisor thinks they’re a no call no show and fires them, then this person ends up having to wait three months to get unemployment benefits. And that might be exaggerated now, they’re definitely catching up. But then when it ends up going to court, you find out, oh he did send a text. It wasn’t a no call no show. So everything is just very, very important.

Okay, makes sense. That absolutely makes sense. So what do you think the long term effects this is going to have on the unemployment system as well as the economy as a whole?

Well, I think no matter what system we had in place, it was going to bottleneck during this pandemic, no matter how great the system would be. However, the glitches in the system, at least in Wisconsin, were really magnified during this. And so there’s been a lot of changes, and there is a revamping of the unemployment system in Wisconsin. So hopefully things will get faster with that, you know, hopefully, we can, and I don’t know what they’re doing, and all but I’m hoping we can get to emailing things, instead of having to fax them in to the department. And that might speed things up, as well. Because then I can email and adjudicator a document while we’re on the phone, instead of having to say, okay, when we hang up, I’ll fax it over, after you receive it, then call back, that type of thing. Help people get their benefits quicker.

Leighann Lovely 8:11
That would be great. I mean, you know, it typically takes the pressure on the system, to practically breaking it for the improvements to happen. So hopefully, you know, we’ll be able to improve a system that may need quite a bit of improvement from my understanding if we’re still faxing documents, right? Maybe we need to update that.

Liza Gonzales 8:33
Exactly. And nothing negative about the way that it was before. It just is one of those things if it’s not broke, let’s not fix it. And I think the pandemic showed that it needed improvement.

Leighann Lovely 8:45
Okay. So do you have anything to you know, add, you know, about what your experience has been over the last year or anything to add at all?

Liza Gonzales 8:57
You know, I guess I have what I want to say to anyone that’s listening, that knows somebody that’s not working, to do some self evaluation and make sure they’re not working for the right reason. If you’re not working, because you are truly concerned about the pandemic, getting it, bringing it home, to maybe elderly loved ones, or children or people, then that’s what I think this is for. You’d have to ask the administration for sure, you know, your senators, everybody, but that’s what I think this extra help is for. But if you’re staying home just because, why should I work when I can get extra unemployment and all this other help, that’s a poor reason. And it’s going to show when you go to look for work again. They’re going to want you to explain this large gap in employment and when everybody’s working again, and all the extra benefits stop. You don’t want to be on the short end of that stick.

Leighann Lovely 10:04
That makes sense. And do you think that a lot of employers are going to really examine the gaps in people’s employment and be asking those tough questions when, I guess when the world fully opens again?

Liza Gonzales 10:19
I absolutely do. That was one of, after the recession, that was one of the main questions employers wanted answers to. They wanted to know, was somebody not working because there was no work available, or because they decided they were just going to skate through it? Also, they would, if somebody was back to work a couple years after the recession, and used the recession as the reason, they would call him on it and say, no, I don’t want him. There’s no reason he couldn’t have been working by now or by this point, why did he wait the extra year? You know, why did she wait? It goes to work ethic, and once things start going, that’s going to matter a lot.

Leighann Lovely 11:10
Well, in compared to what we saw six months ago, to what we are seeing today, things are, in many facets of our industry, are really starting to get going again. I mean, you said it earlier, just a little while ago, we have hundreds of positions. Now, there are definitely some areas that are not in need of people. I think that there’s a lot of HR positions or a lot of displaced HR people. There’s a lot of displaced, you know, people out there that there’s just not there’s no roles for them. But there are definitely some industries that are hiring and hiring and hiring. And we definitely have seen a supply problem.

Liza Gonzales 12:01
Absolutely. That’s one of the differences. Six months ago, there were not nearly as many jobs available. So when they came available, we could fill them to a point. It was still difficult, but people had a very reasonable fear six months ago,

Leighann Lovely 12:22

Liza Gonzales 12:23
Not to say that anyone’s fear now is unreasonable, I’m just saying there’s been so many accomplishments. We’ve broken through so much and now we have all these jobs, and not enough people that choose to work.

Leighann Lovely 12:39
Okay. Well I really appreciate your your time today. It’s been a very enlightening conversation. I appreciate your insights. And my fellow Wisconsinites this is Leighann Lovely with HRables. It’s been a wonderful conversation with Liza. Thank you so much again for being here. I thank everybody for tuning in. If you have any comments and you would like a chance to share or you would like to just join the conversation, please reach out to us on LinkedIn. If you or your company need assistance in hiring, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us we are here to help. Or if you are looking for a new position, please stop by our website at www.SITEStaffingInc.com and apply online. And finally, please tune in next time with HRables. Again, I’m Leighann Lovely. You have a wonderful day!