New Mexico businesses fight through reopening hiring struggles

Business

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Many New Mexico businesses say they’re doing all they can to lure new employees as reopening policies expand more than a year into the pandemic. But with excess vacancies, some businesses say they’re cutting into the services they can offer customers.

Whether it’s a “help wanted” sign posted on the window or a blunter message of “no one wants to work anymore” as posted at an Albuquerque Sonic drive-thru last month, there is an obvious need for workers across New Mexico today. The Albuquerque Hispano Chambers reports nearly 60 businesses will be participating in an upcoming job fair at Civic Plaza.

The hiring issue spans a lot of different types of jobs, as well. An Albuquerque recreation and amusement business, Hinkle Family Center said it chooses to keep parts of its operation closed because of hiring challenges.

“We opted not to open our snack bar either because we didn’t have the staff for it,” said Holly Huddle, Comptroller, and CEO for Hinkle Family Fun Center. “We didn’t have a kitchen manager return, so we’re learning to do the kitchen all over, and we have people who’ve worked in the kitchen, but we have to learn, and so rather than have our guests struggle through a staff shortage, we’ve opted not to open the areas that we’re not fully staffed in yet.”

Huddle says the business hopes that changes in the next few weeks as it continues to hire and train new staff. Trying to draw in more workers, the business says it has started offering to pay workers more than minimum wage, while also offering more promotion opportunities within the organization.

Hinkle Family Fun Center says around 10 of the 92 workers who were furloughed during the pandemic returned to work for the company. Hinkle was closed for 14 months as it was deemed a “close contact recreational facility” with limited criteria on how to reopen amid COVID.

The locally owned business says it’s taking the approach of gradually reopening more areas of its business and adding more operating days as they add more employees. However, the difficulty remains in getting employees on the payroll. Huddle says often times, job seekers won’t show up for scheduled interviews after applying.

“We opted to open Saturdays and Sundays initially, let the business start to rebuild,” Huddle said. “We’ve hired employees to cover that, we plan on opening for the three days of the Memorial Day weekend, and then after that we’ll be adding Fridays, so we’ve been able to add staff as we’ve added business and developed, that gave us the opportunity to develop the staff with training so that they know what they are doing.”

Hinkle Family Fun Center isn’t alone in the struggle. The Albuquerque Hispano Chamber says with close to 60 different businesses participating in a job fair next week, the event is taking over space across Civic Plaza and inside the Albuquerque Convention Center.

Hispano Chamber CEO Ernie C’de Baca says the Chamber continues to get “texted to death” from members and from the businesses about the difficulty of hiring workers. He hopes the group’s upcoming job fair starts to close the gap.

“Employers need happy employees to be successful, and they treat them that way,” said C’de Baca. “I think you’re going to see a different frame of mind for how they deal with employees with flexibility, I get that, and I think that’s needed as well, so you know, we’re learning.”

The Hispano Chamber is holding its job fair on Thursday, May 27, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Civic Plaza in downtown Albuquerque. The chamber is also offering resume writing, wardrobe, and other professional services at that coming event alongside a COVID-19 vaccination clinic. For more information on the upcoming job fair, visit ahcnm.org/resetrecoverrebound-rehire.

For now, the New Mexico Governor’s Office has given no indication they’ll drop the extra $300-per week unemployment bonus the state is continuing to pay jobless workers. Texas became the latest state to announce it will drop it at the end of June. So far, at least 21 states have opted to end it.

When asked Thursday about a recent New Mexico House Republican proposal to end the unemployment bonus, a spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office sent the following statement:

As you know, the state recently reinstated the work search requirement for unemployment insurance benefits. The state continues to work closely with businesses to ensure they have the tools to facilitate a successful reopening and build a strong and sustainable recovery that benefits all New Mexicans.

Nora Meyers Sackett, Press Secretary, Office of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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