Local employers say they have received more job applications since federal unemployment benefits ended

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Some local employers that have struggled to hire during the pandemic said they have been receiving more applications since federal pandemic unemployment benefits were cut off on Sept. 4.

Matt Dylewski, business operations manager at Virtusense, a Peoria technology company that uses artificial intelligence to make healthcare more accessible, said the federal unemployment benefits kept people from looking for a job.

“Hiring for some of our entry-level positions has been extremely difficult for the last 16, 18 months,” he said. “It’s tough to motivate folks that can make the same amount of money not doing a whole lot, so that’s been a struggle for us.”

Now that those benefits have expired, Dylewski said he’s been receiving more job applications.

“Certainly has been an uptick in online applications. Lots of folks now searching [and] taking to Google to find that job opportunity,” said Dylewski.

Dan LaTurno, president of Peoria Production Shop, also said he noticed an increase in applications since federal benefits were cut off.

“I would say there’s certainly been an uptick. We’ve interviewed for customer service positions three or four people we wouldn’t have seen if it was six weeks ago,” he said.

LaTurno said Peoria Production Shop employs a lot of people with disabilities. He said that the “unique population” has prevented them from struggling as much as other companies.

“They’re more loyal, they don’t tend to jump jobs because often $1 an hour doesn’t make that much of a difference in their life when they’re going to leave their social network,” he said. “Now that the cutoff of the benefits …. we’re seeing a little bit of the traditional employees coming back in the workforce. So it’s starting to lighten up a little bit.”

Kari Rauh, director of workforce solutions at Greater Peoria Economic Development Council said their Hiring Extravaganza also helped bring job seekers and employers together. She said some companies reported “tripling of traffic on their website for the day.”

“We’re confident that the word has been getting out and that more people are connected to job opportunities,” she said.

Rauh said the unemployment rate in Peoria based on July numbers is 5.8%, down from 6.4% in June. She said most economists consider an unemployment rate between 4-5% as healthy, and Peoria is on track to get to that point.

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