Oregon Imposes Job Search Deadline for Workers on Unemployment

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on May 26, 2021

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A row of people dressed in business attire keeping themselves occupied while they wait.

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Oregon wants workers on unemployment to look for a job -- or otherwise forfeit their benefits.

Millions of Americans lost their jobs in the course of the coronavirus pandemic, and since many didn't have savings to fall back on, they've been heavily reliant on unemployment benefits to stay afloat. Unemployment benefits have been boosted throughout the pandemic. Last year, jobless workers got an extra $600 a week, which then became a $300 weekly boost that's still in effect today.

That said, as of now, 23 states are pulling the plug on that $300 weekly unemployment boost ahead of schedule. (It's supposed to stay in place through early September, but in some states, it will expire as early as June.) Oregon doesn't happen to be one of them. But Oregon is about to make it a bit more difficult for jobless workers to continue collecting unemployment.

The work search requirement is coming back

Normally, to qualify for unemployment benefits, recipients need to prove that they're actively looking for work. That could mean keeping a log of resumes sent out or interviews attended. Each state has its own specific work search requirements, and some are looser than others.

During the pandemic, states suspended their work search requirement for a number of reasons. First, for much of last year, there were no jobs to be had. In April of 2020, the U.S. jobless rate reached a record high, and pandemic-related restrictions forced many businesses to shutter. Between that and health-related concerns, forcing the jobless to go out and seek work or lose their benefits just wasn't reasonable.

Furthermore, throughout the pandemic, many school districts have been closed for in-person learning. That, too, has been a barrier for parents -- they can't go back to a job if they don't have schools open to provide childcare.

But at this stage of the game, things have improved on the economic front. Jobs have been added back to the economy and many schools are now fully open in some states. In fact, some states are even experiencing their own labor shortages, which is why 23 are ending boosted unemployment early -- so that the jobless are motivated to seek out work.

Oregon, too, is facing a labor shortage, and so to this end, the state will require that the jobless start seeking out work by July 31 or otherwise risk losing their unemployment benefits. The state will also reopen its WorkSource offices in early July to help people find employment.

Come July 31, anyone collecting unemployment must show proof of a job search to keep getting that money. The only exception is those on unemployment who are self-employed or independent contractors -- the state will be setting a later timeline for them to show proof of a job search, but for now, they're off the hook.

Oregon has paid over $9 billion in unemployment since the pandemic began. And while it doesn't have plans to take boosted benefits away from the jobless, it does want to see that efforts are being made to seek out work. The goal, of course, is to get as many people back into the labor force as possible, as that's really the only way to fuel a full economic recovery at both the state and national level.

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