As published in the Las Cruces Sun-News, January 4, 2021
I don’t think anyone was sad to see 2020 fade into the rearview mirror, but now that we have a shiny new year in front of us, we have the opportunity to turn our attention to the most pressing needs we have a community.
While there are many, there is one need that is directly contributing to others, undermining the wellbeing of our families, and that’s unemployment. The excruciatingly high number of people who are out of work due to the pandemic is a little more than 1 in 10 in the local labor force, with 10,261 people receiving benefits as of December 26, 2020.
When the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance ran out on December 28, 5,800 of them lost their benefits. Congress’ new relief bill will provide some temporary respite, but it’s not a permanent solution. Helping people move into new jobs and careers is.
Who do we need to help right now? According to data from the Department of Workforce Solutions, demographically, they fall primarily into the 22 to 54-year-old age group, 73% are Hispanic/Latino, and are split 45%/55% male and female.
According to Tracktherecovery.org, low-wage workers across New Mexico have been most impacted, accounting for 15.9% of those unemployed, compared to 2.4% of those with middle wages and .3% of those with high wages.
The hardest hit were in occupations related to:
- Food prep and serving
- Office and administration support
- Sales and related
- Personal care and service
Like many states, New Mexicans receiving unemployment benefits are not required to register in the workforce system as active job seekers due to the pandemic. Using the DWS data, nearly 3,700 of the total 10,261 are receiving benefits, but not counted as job seekers, while 6,500 are actively seeking work. Factoring in both groups, the unemployment rate in the Las Cruces MSA is much higher than the 7.1% rate that the Labor Market Information currently reports, because it only includes registered job seekers… two-thirds of the total unemployed.
So, helping folks get back to work in 2021 is a far bigger job than any one agency or entity can do on its own. It’s literally going to “take a village” to help our neighbors step into new jobs and, for many, likely in new industries. Thinking outside of the box will ensure we have a very different story to tell by the end of this new year.
As of this writing, there are 3,600 job openings listed in the Las Cruces MSA on the Workforce Connections website including a host of jobs like cashiers and counter sales clerks, food service supervisors, production operators, welders, emergency medical technicians, phlebotomists, engineers and more.
To help build awareness for these jobs, the City of Las Cruces has been actively partnering with Workforce Connections staff to host virtual job fairs, open to both businesses and job seekers. To learn more, visit employnm.com.
For our employers who are hiring, there’s an opportunity to hire differently – opening opportunities to those equipped with high-demand “soft” skills who were already demonstrably successful in other industries. You may well discover a whole new pool of talented individuals to bring on board.
Job seekers, too, can think outside the box, looking beyond our borders for “work from home” or “work from anywhere” opportunities. Workforce Connections staff can help potential remote workers find reputable companies looking for remote workers, some of which may be in other parts of New Mexico.
Together, we can ensure 2021 becomes a year of economic recovery for our families by helping them get back to work as quickly as possible.