Where are the workers? Why positions are going unfilled

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – No matter where you are these days, you might be running into “now hiring” signs everywhere. It’s because tens of thousands of New Mexicans have yet to return to the workforce since layoffs at the height of the pandemic.

So the question is, where is everyone? Why aren’t they taking all of these open positions? And how can New Mexicans afford to live without working?

Acting Secretary of the Workforce Solutions Department, Ricky Serna, said there are 16,100 New Mexicans receiving unemployment benefits right now. That’s down from 150,000 people at the height of the pandemic.

"What we’re doing is using that as a base number to identify how many of those workers are now getting wages reported on their behalf,” said Serna. “And then we’re making assumptions that if they’re not having wages reported that they’re likely unemployed. The question is whether they’re actively looking for work and ready to go back to work."

He said worker hesitancy is adding to the current shortage, among other things.

"Whether that’s concerns about their health and safety because they may be high at risk,” said Serna. “Many of them have childcare issues they’re trying to overcome, many of them are taking care of loved ones who may be sick or ill."

And what about companies like Amazon that have recently moved into Albuquerque, that are offering higher wages and needing to hire more than a thousand workers?

"Those who can pay more or offer additional benefits and perks from you know loan repayment, sign on bonuses, etc. etc. they’re definitely raising the bar for employers that might not be there yet or can’t afford to sustain that over a period of time,” said Serna.

In the hospitality industry in particular, the NM Restaurant Association has turned to offering more benefits to their members, in order to hire and retain workers.

There’s now a discount program, a telemedicine choice, and an insurance option through Aflac. You can find more information on the NMRA here.

And for workers looking to re-enter the workforce, the workforce solutions department has several online resources here.