Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic have a message for businesses that are struggling to rehire amid an improving economy: Fork over hiring bonuses and offer remote work.

According to a survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 39 percent of unemployed workers who aren’t actively looking for work would be tempted to rejoin the workforce by a $1,000 hiring bonus. About a third (32 percent) would be encouraged by an offer of remote work.

The percentage who say hiring bonuses could attract them back to the job market was highest among unemployed workers aged 25-34 (53 percent) and those with some college education but not a degree (49 percent). On May 17-20, the Chamber polled 506 Americans who lost jobs during the pandemic and had not returned to full-time employment.

Chart showing Americans not seeking work

Source: U.S. Chamber of Commerce for the graphic

“One of several important and immediate steps governors can take in encouraging unemployed, hesitant-to-return Americans to rejoin the workforce is investing federal relief funds in hiring incentive programs like return-to-work bonuses,” Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in the report. “Too many businesses and communities across the nation continue to suffer amid the growing worker shortage. We are calling on every governor to take immediate action to help bring more Americans back into the workforce.”

The study found that 10 states — Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Virginia — had announced return-to-work-bonus offerings or similar financial incentives for workers to rejoin the labor force.

Turned off by office return

This survey comes on the heels of a U.S. Chamber analysis of federal employment data that shows a steadily worsening workforce crisis.

According to the Chamber’s Workforce Availability Ratio, there are now half as many available workers for every open job (1.4 available workers/opening) across the country than there have been on average over the past two decades (2.8 is the historical average).

In total, there were more than 9.3 million job openings available at the end of April — a record high.

“America’s great economic resurgence is being held back by an unprecedented workforce shortage — and it’s getting worse,” Bradley said. “We are seeing an increasing number of businesses turning down work and only partially reopening because they can’t find enough workers.”

With many businesses starting to require staff to return to their offices, a growing number of employees, unhappy about ending remote work, are quitting their jobs, compounding the labor-shortage situation.

READ: A ‘turnover tsunami’ is here, with remote work playing a role

A record 4 million people quit their jobs in April, the U.S. Labor Department said. At the same time, a recent survey by professional-services network Ernst & Young Global Limited of more than 16,200 employees worldwide found that more than half would consider leaving their jobs after the pandemic if they weren’t offered enough flexibility regarding where and when they work.

While the hospitality sector is feeling the brunt of the labor shortage, the technology industry has also taken a hit.

In the first quarter of this year, there was a 28 percent increase in tech-job postings compared with a year earlier, and the outlook for job seekers isn’t showing any signs of slowing, according to career website

“The continuous surge in tech-job postings, combined with the low tech unemployment rate, offers a positive growth outlook for technologist hiring and the landscape as a whole for the remainder of 2021,” Art Zeile, CEO of Dice, said in a press release.

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