NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Thousands of New Mexicans will be cut off from unemployment benefits on Saturday pulling the main source of income for many. So will people flood the workforce? What will this mean for the local economy?
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Businesses have come up with creative ways to attract employees in the past year and a half mainly with money and they’re hoping with unemployment ending, even more people will start applying. Unemployment benefits are coming to an end, something local businesses hope will bring workers back.
“As a matter of fact, it is already starting to help us as far as people coming in and starting to apply and stuff like that,” said Dan Garcia, owner of Garcia’s Kitchen.
Garcia says he’s seen a recent uptick in applications with benefits ending on Saturday in the state. They’re still short 60 to 70 employees for all locations. About a year ago, Garcia says they started raising wages to maintain employees and attract new ones.
Across the board, Garcia says employees are making 15% to 20% more. “I think it has made a huge difference. It is hard to survive nowadays, so I think it has helped everybody,” Garcia said.
The New Mexico Restaurant Association says most restaurants in the state have raised wages. Carol Wight says restaurants used to be down 50% of their staff. She says the number is closer to 25% now, thanks to incentives. “I was looking at our job board yesterday, and there aren’t, even entry are bringing in more than $10.50 minimum wage, and it is significantly over that for any other job,” Wight said.
Local businesses hope the end of benefits will help rebuild their staff but Michael O’Donnell of UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economy Research at UNM expects local businesses to continue to struggle to find employees as many workers no longer feel safe in industries that put them in direct contact with others.
O’Donnell says other states that have already pulled back unemployment benefits have not seen a huge increase in people going back to work. “It is a lot more competitive in terms of trying to hire employees. You have to be able to say to your employee, we are going to make it worth your while to come work here,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell predicts less spending in the next few months as benefits are taken away but he thinks the higher wages are here to stay. “We are not going to lower wages. Where they are at is where they are at. We want to raise them up and keep them working,” Garcia said.
Garcia says they’ve been able to raise wages by slightly increasing their prices. The New Mexico Restaurant Association it out with a new campaign encouraging people to consider the restaurant industry when re-entering the workforce.