Arkansas stopped extended federal unemployment benefits by order of Governor Hutchinson on Saturday. That was 10 weeks earlier than the federal legislation provided.

Hutchinson echoed the explanation of other Republican governors and the theory of the business lobby  — the $300 weekly benefits, though relatively small once regular unemployment pay is exhausted (16 weeks in Arkansas) — were discouraging people from working.


The New York Times examined that notion today and the findings were, at best, mixed for the notion that deadbeat slackers just needed a little push.

The lead is from Missouri, one of the first to halt aid. Employers there say the end of benefits hasn’t unleashed a flood of job-seekers.


Work-force development officials said they had seen virtually no uptick in applicants since the governor’s announcement, which ended a $300 weekly supplement to other benefits. And the online job site Indeed found that in states that have abandoned the federal benefits, clicks on job postings were below the national average.

Faith in talking points always has mattered more than facts to Republicans.

And faith in low pay and poor benefits is a hard religion for Arkansas employers to abandon. This is creating a bit of tension in the labor market.


Of course, it’s early. But conversations with employers who are hunting for workers and people who are hunting for jobs in the St. Louis area revealed stark differences in expectations and assumptions about what a day’s work is worth.

The divide raises a fundamental question of what a healthy labor market looks like. Does it mean workers are on such a knife edge that they feel compelled to take the first job that comes along? Or is it one in which employers are the ones who have to scramble and feel pressured to raise wages and improve working conditions? Are the economy and the public better off when workers get to be choosy or when employers do?

“One way you might define normal is when employers and workers have the same idea of what an appropriate package looks like, and then the issue is matching up the people with the jobs,” said Katharine G. Abraham, an economist at the University of Maryland and a former commissioner at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Clearly part of the problem now,” she said, “is that what employers and what workers think is out of whack.”

Arkansas employers like the old rules. The question is whether the workers’ outlooks have changed in a Right to Work for Less state.