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Unemployment remains high in New Jersey, yet business owners are struggling to fill jobs. 

NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka discussed some of the dynamics behind that dichotomy in an interview with NJ Spotlight News anchor Briana Vannozzi on Friday. 

Siekerka, who has been driving the conversation about New Jersey’s hiring crisis all year, said the appeal of remote work, competition for positions across different industries and skill levels are all playing into the employment theatre – on top of the continued federal unemployment benefits that are still being paid as New Jersey reopens. 

On remote work, Siekerka said companies are grappling with the reality that some employees liked working remotely during the pandemic and are seeking like-minded employers. 

“A lot of our folks are out there saying, ‘You know what? Remote work works,’” she said. “And if my company is telling me I’ve got to come back into the office, I know there are people out there competitively, who are going to lean into remote work. And I want a more flexible work environment.” 

Siekerka also noted competition between employers has expanded through different industries post-pandemic, leading to an imbalance of pay rates across different levels of work requirements. 

“You might have restaurant workers who all of a sudden (finds) an Amazon distribution center opens up the block and they’re $25 an hour to start,” Siekerka said. “And the restaurant worker says, ‘I’m going to Amazon because I can get $25 an hour.’ 

“So the artificial inflation of entry-level positions that is going on right now because of the labor shortage is creating big challenges and especially in more vulnerable jobs – like home healthcare and childcare. People are saying I can make more money in what I would deem to be an easier position. Why am I going to take a tougher job?” 

Siekerka said employers are also being challenged in hiring people who may not necessarily have the skills needed for a position, just to fill the position. 

To view Friday’s interview on NJ Spotlight News, click here.