Experts weigh in on state of unemployment 1 year after stay-at-home orders

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Posted at 6:38 PM, Mar 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-24 19:38:28-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Wednesday marked one year since stay-at-home orders went in effect in Kansas City, Missouri.

As a result, many people lost their jobs and were forced to file for unemployment.

In Missouri, the seasonally adjustment unemployment rate for Feb. 2021 is 4.2%, compared to the 3.6% in Feb. 2020. In Kansas, the latest data shows a seasonally adjusted rate of 3.5% in Jan. 2021 compared to 3.1% in Jan. 2020.

Clyde McQueen, president of the Full Employment Council, said as more jobs become available, there needs to be a strong workforce 'eco-system' to support workers.

The two pillars McQueen stresses needed to make of the eco-system are child care and transportation.

"I think there’s an assumption that if there is a job and a person the match is automatic," McQueen said. "Between those two things there’s a child care component and a transportation component."

McQueen said many people are likely not able to get jobs because they cannot find child care and transportation, both of which would allow them to stay in the job.

"Particularly in our region, at least 40% of families are led by a single head of household," McQueen said. "We lost about 40% of all of our child care slots during the downturn."

However, McQueen feels pleased with the latest federal relief package and what it means for child care.

"It puts tremendous amounts of resources into child care, that is huge, I think that people fully understand now how important that is to having a fully functioning workforce," McQueen said.

McQueen said lack of transportation is likely another reason why people are not able to work.

"Many people lost their cars, they were repossessed," McQueen said.

McQueen said he's currently seeing a big demand for jobs in transportation, such as Amazon drivers, CDL truck drivers, as well as jobs in information technology and cyber security.

He anticipates a high demand for educators soon too.

"There’s going to be a major demand for teachers because there were a number of teachers that retired just in the face of COVID," McQueen said.

Currently, McQueen said the Full Employment Council is working on a project with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, to create a tool to point job seekers in the direction of child care and transportation resources.

The program will be something like a heat map that will show people nearby services they can use for a job they are applying to.

There's no currently no timeline on when it will be up and running, but McQueen said he hopes to make it a permanent program that will continue to build up the workforce infrastructure for years to come.