As businesses struggle to find employees, federal unemployment benefits are set to expire Monday

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DENVER — Two Castle Rock outdoor pools had to close early for the season due to a staffing shortage. The Butterfield Crossing and Burgess Memorial pools shut down for the season this week ahead of a normally busy Labor Day weekend.

“Holidays are some of our busiest times of the year, especially at our outdoor pools, just because everyone wants to get outside and joy that sun in the heat,” said Carolyn McLaughlin, the aquatics supervisor for the town of Castle Rock.

Normally, the department has 200 lifeguards on staff for its various pools. However, as many teenagers headed back to school and with a nationwide lifeguard shortage, McLaughlin hasn’t been able to find anyone to replace them.

“This is one of the last scenarios that I could’ve ever imagined especially for closing weekend for outdoor pools. We were all excited to get out here and enjoy this last weekend,” she said.

Already, the department is looking for more year-round lifeguards to help fill some of the positions at some of its indoor pools. Castle Rock is offering two types of certification courses in an attempt to attract new hires of all ages.

Luckily, McLaughlin says she was able to move staff around from the outdoor pools to work at the indoor facilities so they will remain open.

Unemployment Benefits Ending

While many pools rely on younger employees to fill vacant positions, all over the state, businesses big and small say they have also been struggling to find employees.

Many restaurants have had to change their hours or even close down on certain days due to an employee shortage.

University of Denver finance professor Mac Clouse says the combination of state and federal unemployment benefits have caused an unprecedented dilemma.

“In some cases, people are making more money by staying home and getting unemployment,” Clouse said.

The pandemic and unemployment assistance has also caused some people to rethink their line of work and reconsider whether they want to return or try something else.

“There’s a lot of people that want a lifestyle change now. They don’t want to go back to the job that they had,” Clouse said.

Other would-be employees could have health concerns or childcare issues preventing them from returning to the workplace as well.

However, on Monday, the federal unemployment benefits are set to expire. The benefits include money for the self-employed or gig workers who are out of a job and money for the long-term unemployed.

The $300 supplemental federal benefits checks are also set to expire.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment expects this to affect roughly 145,000 people in the state.

“We do not have state funds to extend those benefits to people who were never eligible for benefits,” said CDLE Executive Director Joe Barela. “There are just no resources available in the state trust fund.”

He projects that roughly 30,000 people on the state unemployment insurance will be able to continue to qualify for payments as they look for work, though they will lose the federal help.

The state has been sending out messaging for months warning people about the changes and encouraging them to take a closer look at their skillset to determine whether there are any open positions they might fit.

Barela also encouraged job seekers to work with a career coach, saying it could result in a higher paycheck overall.

While the state has not recovered all of the jobs it lost since April 2020, but Barela says overall the state is doing very well and that Colorado is higher than the national average in jobs gains.

“We know that there are some jobs that will probably never come back,” he said.

Still, he says there are about 125,000 unfilled jobs in the state at the moment. He encouraged job seekers to check out to see the positions that are available.