Worker Shortage in Washington with a Jobless Rate > 9%? Orchard Brings 1,000 Workers from Jamaica?
A few weeks ago, I posted about how Michigan landscape companies can't find enough seasonal workers this year, even though Michigan has the highest jobless rate in the country at 14% in April. Here's a related story about a farm worker shortage in the state of Washington, even though the state unemployment rate has been above 9% for 12 straight months for the first time since 1984.
"There was a moment when they first started calling this the "Great Recession," in 2008, that Steve Appel thought this might be the time. Americans might come back to working on the farm.
"It's just common sense, with the depression and high unemployment and what not, that there ought to be local folks looking to come take some of these jobs," says Appel, 58, a wheat farmer in the Palouse in Eastern Washington.
Nope. It hasn't happened. Farm jobs are going unfilled to such a degree that now a huge fruit orchard in Okanogan County, desperate for someone to pick cherries and apples this summer, has turned to flying in hundreds of workers from ... Jamaica. That's right. From a Caribbean island more than 3,000 miles away. In all, this one farm has applied to bring in more than a thousand temporary foreign workers."
Read more here.
Update: Thanks to Ironman for this link, showing that Washington has the second most generous unemployment benefits in the country of $586 per week as of May 3 (behind Massachusetts, which pays $628 per week or more than $31,000 per year) or more than $28,000 per year working 0 hours per week. Farm workers would "only" make about $24,380 per year picking apples, so it wouldn't make sense to work, and that could explain the "worker shortage" and why the orchard needs to hire 1,000 workers from Jamaica.
Question: How much lower than the current 9.9% would the jobless rate in the U.S. be today without the 99-weeks of unemployment benefits that can be as generous as $31,000 per year in some states? There is at least some evidence of "worker shortages" in Washington and Michigan, despite the "worst economic crisis since the Great Depression."