(The Center Square) – New Mexican businesses are hiring, but it's been difficult to find workers as approximately 92,000 residents receive unemployment benefits.
The restaurant and hospitality industry is particularly suffering from the lack of willing workers.
“We have situations all over the state right now where restaurants are not able to open their dining rooms, not because they’re not permitted under the health codes but because they can’t find the staff to staff the rooms,” Rob Black, president and CEO of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce, told The Center Square.
In Albuquerque, a Sonic begged customers to be understanding with a sign saying, "We are short-staffed. Please be patient with the staff that did show up. No one wants to work anymore," KOB 4 TV reported.
“In New Mexico, we no longer have a requirement to look for work to qualify for unemployment so that is one piece,” Black said. “Employees do not have to look for work, and as long as they’re qualified for their state benefits they’re also qualified for the federal supplemental benefits so it makes it financially for some employees, it’s easier not to go look for work.”
In September, the federal unemployment supplement is slated to end, according to Black.
There is a rule that allows employers to report to the Department of Workforce Solutions cases where, upon reopening, they have offered a job back to former employees and been turned down, Black said. This would ostensibly result in that individual’s unemployment benefits being revoked.
Black said many employers don’t want to do this, however, because some former employees may be taking care of a vulnerable loved one.
The second wave of unemployment benefits should be ending soon, according to Black, which should put some people back into the workforce but the federal supplement won’t run out until September.
A further problem causing businesses to avoid hiring full staffing is uncertainty as to whether their county will remain open.
“Colfax County, I believe it was, went from turquoise, which is our highest level, safest level county, to red yesterday, which means you could be operating a restaurant at 75% and now you can’t have indoor dining,” Black said.
Black said until businesses can be certain about the future, they will remain understaffed.