New Mexico sees big dip in initial unemployment claims

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – More than a year into the pandemic, there are finally some bright spots in New Mexico’s unemployment numbers. “It’s a great sign,” said Bill McCamley, Secretary of New Mexico’s Department of Workforce Solutions.

The latest data from the U.S. Department Of Labor shows the number of New Mexicans filing new claims to get onto unemployment is at the lowest point since the start of the pandemic. According to the department, about 2,400 New Mexicans filed new claims last week. That’s down from nearly 2,700 the week before. In the first three weeks in March 2021, data shows the number of New Mexicans filing new claims for standard unemployment was under 3,000 consecutively. Just about a year ago, nearly 28,000 New Mexicans filed new claims.

“As counties are doing better in terms of getting folks vaccinated, having their COVID rates come down, that’s when we’re seeing these job opportunities start to come up again,” McCamley said. The Department of Workforce Solutions tracks how many people it pays, showing there may also be a slight dip in New Mexicans receiving unemployment benefits.

“What we’ve seen is the amount of folks that we’re paying has come down a couple [of] thousand folks over the past week,” McCamley said. “So, we were in the roughly 105,000 category last week and this week. At the end of the week, we see we’re about in the 103,000.”

He said this number is similar to what it was in early fall of 2020, before the state did a two-week reset in November. But, it’s a huge drop from the more than 150,000 people the department said it was paying in June of 2020. He said the data shows how connected the state’s physical health and economy are.

“As we see certain parts of the economy open up as counties are hitting their health goals, the types of jobs that are opening back up are those W2 jobs. The restaurant jobs, the retail jobs, those types of things. So that tracks with the data that we’re seeing,” he said. “I will say it’s very, very important though, that we continue to really show that we’re willing to do what it takes to get the economy to open back up. And that is why it is so vital that people go to vaccinenm.org and get signed up to get that vaccine. And then when you get that call or text, please go get that shot in the arm. The more protected you are, the better it is for you and your family but the better it is for us as a community. And that translates to the economic situation and jobs as well.”

Though some numbers are starting to dip, McCamley said the number of people applying for the pandemic unemployment assistance program is staying constant. That program is set up for contracted workers like ride-share drivers, food truck owners, and other employees that work on contract.

As some unemployment numbers start to dip, the Department of Workforce Solutions is starting to focus more energy on getting people back into the workforce. Its offices around the state are now open by appointment only where people can get help writing resumes, looking for jobs, and applying for jobs. McCamley said post-pandemic, the fields with the greatest opportunity will be healthcare, education, construction, and STEM.

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