ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – One of the state’s biggest job fairs returned to Albuquerque Wednesday. During a time where many businesses are complaining, they can’t find workers. Despite New Mexico having the worst unemployment rate in the county.

The number of people who came to the job fair was solid but didn’t match the turnout of past years. “A wide variety of positions are available, all shifts,” says Julie Sebelin, HR Director, Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel.

Hundreds of job seekers packed into the gym at Harrison Middle School in the South Valley. “I’ve been out of work for a minute so I need to get back to work,” says job seeker Sarahffina Macias. 

With the hope of starting a new career. “I was laid off due to the pandemic and it’s been really hard to find a job. I have a temporary position right now but that’s going to end at the beginning of August,” says job seeker Gabrela Barillas.

Wednesday, state Senator Michael Padilla held his 9th annual job fair, hosting 92 businesses, looking to fill more than 4,600 jobs. “In the past, I’ve had to kind of beat the doors down to get employers to come to my job fair. This year they were tracking me down to get this done,” Sen. Padilla said.

Sen. Padilla says about 3,000 people attended the four-hour-long event. That’s down from the 5,500 that showed up two years ago. Employers say getting people hired has been a challenge coming out of the pandemic. “Part of the money that they are still getting from unemployment I think is really hurting us as a state,” says Crystal Gallegos, general administrative manager at Rain Tunnel Car Spa.

While the government’s pandemic benefits continue for another month and a half. Some job seekers say not everyone is avoiding work. “There are a lot of people like me for example, we got the benefits and at the same time we’re not going to rely on it for the long term we really want to go back to work,” Barillas says.

Sen. Padilla says of the 92 businesses in attendance, a third of them were restaurants. Earlier this month, the state launched a return-to-work incentive for people on unemployment. The incentive is $600 right now, going down to $400 next week, the final week of the offer.