Unemployment Benefits and Summer Workers: Contrary to What the WaPo Tells You, They Aren’t Getting $1,000 a Week

May 30, 2021

Here’s a pro tip for reporters: employers’ complaints about getting workers are not always honest. This one may have been helpful for a piece about employers at summer beach locations who are having a hard time finding workers. The piece discusses the difficulty several employers face in finding workers. At one point it recounts the story of a restaurant owner:

“He attributed the lack of workers to unemployment benefits. A worker in New Jersey could receive up to $1,000 a week with the $300 federal bonus, according to state data.”

While some workers in New Jersey can get close to $1,000 a week, with the $300 federal supplement (the state has a maximum payment of $681 a week), this is not likely relevant for restaurant workers. The piece reports that the minimum wage in New Jersey for seasonal employees is $10.10 an hour or $404 for a forty-hour week. Most restaurant workers likely earn close to this minimum. Also, many do not work a forty-hour week. (The average for the country as a whole is 25 hours.)

If we use the $404 as a rough average, a worker could be getting $242 from their regular benefit, which would translate into $542 with the federal supplement. The benefit would somewhat higher if they had a higher wage history, but almost certainly nowhere near $1,000 a week for people considering restaurant work.


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