New Mexico centers for job search help to reopen for first time in over a year

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – More and more businesses are hiring as the state loosens COVID restrictions, and despite high unemployment numbers, some industries still aren’t able to fill needed positions. The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions says more help is on the way.

The New Mexico Restaurant Association says business owners have been having a hard time finding employees for months and there are a couple of reasons why.

“What we’re seeing right now, is people are very comfortable on unemployment and there’s been extensions of unemployment and we’re also seeing many folks who have moved out of the state to work in states that have been open this whole time,” NMRA CEO Carol Wight explained.

She also believes the labor shortage will continue until more people get vaccinated, and that workers could also be nervous to return since they were laid off multiple times over the past year as the state changed its reopening levels.

“Our workforce has been devastated,” Wight said. “They have been laid off and called back in and laid off again. And, just before Christmas was the worst because we had started to get open to a greater degree, and then everybody was laid off right before the holidays and that was, I mean, beyond tragic, really.”

On Thursday, News 13 crews saw “help wanted” signs at restaurants and retailers in downtown, Old Town, and on the west side.

Wight said it’s unclear just how many positions are needed within the state’s 3,300 restaurants, but that the need is growing as counties reach reopening levels allowing greater capacity. She said one result of the lack of staffing is that some restaurants are forced to cut their operating hours.

Department of Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley said as COVID numbers come down, his department is transitioning its focus solely from unemployment benefits, now to also helping people get back to work. Its Workforce Connections Centers will reopen Monday, for the first time in more than a year.

“It is not our intention to put mandatory work search requirements back in just yet in terms of unemployment, but we are going to start doing more to allow for people who want to go back to work the resources they need to get into those jobs,” McCamley stated.

People will be able to make an appointment to get help with job searches, writing resumes, and assistance with interviews. They’ll also offer help with locked unemployment insurance claims, including document upload and ID verification. People can make an appointment online starting next week.

McCamley is also encouraging employers to report anyone who turns down a job offer without good cause to the DWS through their online form. He said that is a criteria that can be used to stop someone’s unemployment benefits.

As of Thursday morning, there are more than 105,000 New Mexicans receiving unemployment benefits. It is a drop of about 4,000 since the beginning of the month.

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