Expanded unemployment benefits cited most often as challenge
to Greater St. Cloud/Central Minnesota employers responding to survey;
business groups urge new State actions to address the issue

(ST. CLOUD / May 26, 2021) – Expanded unemployment benefits were cited most often as a detriment to hiring by Greater St. Cloud and Central Minnesota employers who took a recent survey. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said employee shortages led them to cut back on expansion plans.

Those and other results were released today by the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation (GSDC), which commissioned the survey and collaborated on its development, distribution and analysis with the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce and St. Cloud’s Greenfield Communications. A 16-question, online inquiry was emailed to approximately 1,460 investors/members of the GSDC and Chambers of Commerce in St. Cloud, Cold Spring, Sartell, St. Joseph, Sauk Rapids and Waite Park. The May 6-18 survey was completed by 215 people.

Among the results:

  • 53% had openings for up to seven positions.
  • 23% sought to fill 14 or more openings.
  • 43% said fewer than half of applicants contacted for interviews in 2021 followed through with them.
  • 38% of respondents said fewer than half who were offered jobs accepted them.
  • It’s taken five or more weeks for 59% of respondents to fill open jobs in 2021.
  • 14% of respondents had no positions they were trying to fill.

Jobs cited most often as hardest to fill:

  • $15.01-$20.00 per hour, followed by jobs paying $20.01-$25.00 per hour.
  • 19% of respondents were also having trouble filling salaried positions.
  • 5% reported no challenges filling any positions.

“While everyone knew of companies having trouble filling jobs, we conducted this survey to get a clearer picture of how extensive such challenges are in our region,” said GSDC President Patti Gartland. “These results further reinforce the urgency for the State of Minnesota to make immediate adjustments to better equip many struggling businesses.”

The ways most mentioned in the survey that organizations have altered operations due to employee shortages are with increased overtime, indicated by 50% of respondents; addressing employee burnout/turnover (47%); limiting services (30%); cutting back on expansion plans (28%); and reducing production (27%).

Factors survey respondents with difficulties filling positions believe contribute to their challenges:

  • 56% listed expanded unemployment benefits.
  • Other factors included small/inadequate pools of candidates (50%), government stimulus checks (44%) and others.

Teresa Bohnen, President of the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce, said her organization and the GSDC are approaching State leaders, and encouraging business owners to do so as well, to take several immediate steps to address these issues.

“Our local business can’t afford to simply wait out this crisis until expanded federal unemployment benefits end on September 6,” said Bohnen. “We need the State to take the steps under its control to make a positive difference.”

Gartland and Bohnen said those steps include:

Actively and aggressively enforcing job search and job acceptance requirements for recipients to qualify for unemployment benefits. Reduce the scope of allowance for not accepting job offers. And establish a process for companies to easily report non-responsive applicants.

Adding an incentive (termination of benefits bonus) for those receiving unemployment benefits to return to work.

Returning the maximum term of eligibility to pre-pandemic levels.

Offsetting the amount of eligibility by the amount added by the federal top-off.

Greg Windfeldt, President/CEO of Preferred Credit, Inc. and chair of the survey’s planning team, said it was important to note that this was not formal research that used random sampling of all area organizations to create a small margin of error. Rather, the results reflect the answers of 215 GSDC and Chamber investors/members who responded to an emailed inquiry.

“No matter what the survey’s methodology was, 59 companies responded that their current hiring challenges have forced them to cut back on expansion plans in our region. Fourteen said they’ve considered relocating elsewhere,” said Windfeldt. “Those are real challenges being faced by businesses, and we haven’t scratched the surface on how many are really being impacted.”

Other members of the survey planning team included: Brian Myres, GSDC Board Chair; Patti Gartland, GSDC President; Teresa Bohnen, St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce President; Dr. King Banaian and Dr. Richard MacDonald, St. Cloud State University; Luke Greiner, Central & Southwest Minnesota Regional Analyst for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development; Jeff Gau, Marco; Mike Markman, US Bank; Joan Schatz, Park Industries; Scott Fuller, ATS Inc.; Stefanie Brown, Rinke Noonan; Donella Westphal, Jules’ Bistro; Gail Cruikshank, GSDC Talent Director; Leslie Dingmann, GSDC Business Development Director; and Steve Greenfield, Greenfield Communications.

Those wanting a copy of the six-page survey report may request one by emailing Gail Cruikshank, GSDC Talent Director, at gcruikshank@greaterstcloud.com.


# # #

Public Relations   Advertising

Public Affairs   Research

Greenfield Communications

Duluth  218/260-7283

St. Cloud  320/260-5744