ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Like many places, the City of Albuquerque is having trouble finding workers. The city says it always has around 500 open positions simply because it’s such a large operation. However, coming out of the pandemic and with retirements, it said it has even more openings and is hiring in almost every department.
“In some of those areas, they’re critical. So, not having people in those positions requires us to have some overtime opportunities for those who are there. But also could impact to some degree how quickly we’re able to get some services up and running,” Lawrence Rael, Chief Operations Officer for the City of Albuquerque, said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Rael said the city is restructuring departments to mitigate impacts on services. “Rethinking how we deliver service is part of what we’ve been doing to ramp up the service so we have service across the city,” Rael said. “There’s probably a number reasons why but particularly the vacancies that seem to be creating some impacts for us as we start opening up are transit operations for example.”
Rael said the transit department needs drivers with commercial drivers licenses and is using smaller vans to be able to have people without those licenses to still offer the needed services.
Rael said people could see longer response times to weed complaints and code enforcement. The city said it is continuing to have trouble hiring for the Transit Department, which it said is typical. Right now, there are more than 70 open positions in the department.
The city said it’s also short in departments traditionally easy to staff like Solid Waste. The city’s Security Division has about 125 positions and is down about 50. At a press conference on Tuesday, Mayor Tim Keller pointed to the extra $300 a week in extra unemployment benefits as one reason behind the shortage.
“We would ask people if you are on unemployment, you know, that is the way things are working now and we understand that. And it makes sense economically, if you can make more money, we understand that. But, remember it’s going to run out. So, go ahead and apply, get in the queue, and line up a job for the day the unemployment runs out,” said Mayor Keller. Earlier during the week, a spokesperson with the governor’s office said they don’t believe the extra funds are incentivizing people to stay on unemployment at an expense of a job.
The city is also seeing more openings in its higher-paying jobs like engineers and lawyers. The mayor said a few months ago, the city raised wages for engineers to what is typical in the market. The extra unemployment benefits end on September 5.