FARGO — When North Dakota ended extra federal unemployment in mid-June, the state reported having 18,017 job openings.

As of Aug. 4, the state reported 18,078 job openings.

Those figures are from Forum News Service reporter Jeremy Turley, who last week wrote a story with the headline "Did ending federal unemployment benefits help fill jobs in North Dakota?"

You should still read Turley's article — it's good — but the answer is right there in the numbers.

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No, ending federal unemployment benefits did not help fill jobs in North Dakota.

The state actually had more job openings than it did two months earlier despite trying to starve its workers back to low-paying jobs.

In the most humble possible way, allow me to say: I told you so.

Despite the cheerleading from the right when Gov. Doug Burgum and his fellow members of the Service Workers Are Lazy Club announced that the state was going to force those bums at restaurants and bars back to work by cutting their benefits, those of us who live in the real world chuckled and shook our heads.

It isn't quite that simple, we said.

I wrote about it a couple of times.

"What if, " I wrote in May, "women, who've been especially hard hit by the pandemic because they bore the brunt of childcare responsibilities when remote learning became widespread, decide to not return to the workforce because it isn't worth it? If the majority of your paycheck is being sucked up by daycare, there's not much point to earning one."

It's way more complicated than just forcing people back to jobs they don't want, I wrote.

"There's a chance it's because businesses aren't paying high enough wages. Maybe the onus is on businesses to pay better wages to attract workers."

I touched that base again in late June, basing a column on a New York Times report that work-force development experts in some states were seeing no uptick in job applications in spite of governors in those states chopping the extra unemployment benefits.

Again, the solution was obvious: Pay people more and offer them decent benefits and they'll work for you. Supply-and-demand capitalism is a two-way street, I wrote. And if your business can't cut it, that's the harsh reality of capitalism.

The solution is still available, by the way. Always has been, always will be. Would you rather work for $10 an hour or $15 an hour? Seems simple.


Burgum and others who supported cutting the extra unemployment cash because it was a "perverse incentive" to not work, so sure of themselves back then, are backtracking now. Now they say it was never meant to be a cure-all. Now they say the problem runs much deeper.

Funny, they never mentioned that earlier when they were disparaging the state's workers.

Some of us had it figured out. And we did say it back then.

Which allows us today to say: I told you so.

With humility, of course.