New claims for benefits from New Mexico’s unemployment insurance program have flattened in May to about 8,000 applications per week.

The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions received 7,948 new claims the week ending May 16, a decrease of 76 claims from the prior week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The number of claims from self-employed workers, through a federal pandemic-related stimulus program, dropped to 3,256 for the week ending May 16 from 4,714 the prior week, Labor Department statistics show.

Weekly unemployment applications have declined significantly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in late March, when the number reached a high of nearly 32,000 as businesses shut down and the first waves of workers were laid off. But new claims remain more than 10 times the normal average before the shutdown.

Almost 173,000 New Mexico workers — including many who are self-employed — have applied for unemployment benefits amid the pandemic.

“Yes, the number of new claims is decreasing in New Mexico and roughly at the same pace as the rest of the country, but they are still going up each week,” said Jeffrey Mitchell, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of New Mexico. “... You could argue that the reason the new claims [are] decreasing is only that so many people in vulnerable industries have already been laid off.”

The unemployment rate in New Mexico for the week ending May 9 was 12.59 percent, the most recent data available. The nation’s highest unemployment rates that week were in Nevada (23.5 percent), Michigan (22.6 percent), Washington (22.1 percent), Rhode Island (19.9 percent) and New York (19.3 percent).

Mitchell said New Mexico’s lower rate compared to those states is “remarkable” because of the large number of jobs in the hospitality sector, which has taken a huge hit.

“However, we have one of the highest percent jobs in government, which thus far have been less hard hit,” Mitchell said.

Many who were able to retain their jobs also have paid a price during the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in a survey released Wednesday that 48 percent of those who responded said they or another adult in their household had gotten a pay cut. And 39 percent said they believe they or a household member would lose employment income in the next four weeks.

In Santa Fe County, 12,449 people applied for regular unemployment benefits from March 21 to May 9. The county peaked at 2,692 claimants the week ending March 28 and dropped to 733 claimants the week ending May 9, according to the Department of Workforce Solutions.

Bernalillo, Doña Ana, San Juan and Sandoval counties were the only other New Mexico counties that have had more than 1,000 claims in a week.

(4) comments

George Welland

THE REAL STORY SHOULD BE HOW MANY CLAIMS HAVE BEEN PROCESSED... AND WHY OR WHY NOT!? Employers (especially with high turnover and a low-wage workforce) sequel like stuck pigs when payroll taxes increase, like when minimum wage increases. The UI payroll tax has been kept artificially low for years, primarily by lobbyists pressuring state legislators to make it very difficult, if not impossible for the unemployed to receive UI benefits. The truth is UI payroll costs are just another expense that's tax deductible, passed onto consumers, and serves as one more barrier to competition to benefit established businesses. It doesn't single out any individual employer and only gets costly in industries with a history of furloughing employees. Nevertheless the low amounts involved for which legislators and business lobbyists sell out workers is amazing! Maybe it's one penny of one hundred dollars spent on goods and services... but that's money lobbyists can spend in elections on their favorite politicians campaigns. The Coronavirus Aide Relief Economic Security (CARES) Act flooded the states with extra UI benefits for any worker that is eligible for regular state UI (plus a number of programs for everyone else); but the state of New Mexico in addition to slowly paying everyone; also withhold federally funded benefits to those that were disqualified under punitive state laws concerning voluntarily job separations.

New Mexico's UI laws hurt workers who quit (for all but a few reasons, like pregnancy) are denied benefits. Someone who's fired for tardiness or quits without notice to go fishing is treated the same as those who quit to take care of an immediate family member, even if just temporarily. However the state does provide a mechanism to allow disqualified claimants to re-qualify for benefits (after leaving voluntarily as well as for most other reasons): but only by working again in covered employment; earning five times their weekly benefit amount (WBA); and then separating again under non-disqualifying circumstances. The re-qualification mechanism is punitive in normal economic times; but during a pandemic it's absurd as one is not allowed to go about and seek or commute to jobs, which probably don't exist; and thus the punitive re-qualification law becomes cruel and unusual punishment. The federal government recognized this and ordered all states to review disqualifications imposed on claimants since July of 2019, to see if they're eligible for benefits under the CARES Act; but New Mexico prefers to drag its feet; and is jeopardizing millions of dollars in federal funds to the state by failing to act appropriately!

George Welland

Here's The Real Story On The City Of Santa Fe & Politicians In General: Here's an example of how governmental entities (like the city of Santa Fe), missed the boat to ease their budget pressures, let workers stay healthy at home, and help the local economy. Every week without mass lay-offs (especially of those earning less than $25.00 per hour) deprived workers, and the local economy, of $600.00 per week at the federal government's expense. For those who are unaware of how UI works, the employer pays a nominal amount in payroll taxes that builds up in a trust fund for economic emergencies (like the one we're in, and to which the federal government kicks in additional funds). To date, the governor, legislature, and many city governments have hampered efforts to stop COVID-19, by holding up UI payments for all wage slaves seeking regular state UI by not liberalizing the state's UI laws (which could be permitted by a simple stroke of the state labor secretary's pen and is actually encouraged by the feds). In the city's defense, ORDINARILY most governments are self insured, they're called "reimbursable employers," and don't pay into UI trust funds to begin with, but have to pay 100% of their employees jobless benefits. Reimbursable employers, like cities, ORDINARILLY pay furloughed workers whether they work or not, BUT under the CARES Act the feds pay reimbursable entities for their UI costs plus the additional $600.00 per week! It doesn't take much to figure out an employee eligible for a WBA of $300.00 a week plus the federal increase will get paid $ 900.00 a week. Workers are required to be able to return to work at the employer's convenience to remain eligible, but those workers will also be allowed to work and earn up to one fifth (20%) of their WBA (before the $600 is added) with no reduction in benefits until they earn more than their WBA. In other words they can easily gross a over $1,000 per week, as the city can cut schedules to just one day a week to keep the structure of government and a minimal level of service in place (remember the workers have to stay around and thus spend their money in the local economy and the savings could easily continue the workers' benefits)! Why labor or management has failed to figure this out is beyond me... unless the lack of government services wouldn't be noticed and expose the city's operations for the farce it may be? As far as higher paid city workers are concerned... well it's hard to worry about them when the city is incapable of taking care of lower paid workers while it costs nothing to do so (and would have helped keep people at home).

In closing, the governor and other politicians, need to wake up and see how the state labor secretary has been working to undo the benefits of quarantines and elevate the economic hardship of all New Mexicans, and of course the legislature in particular needs to start passing laws for the benefit of all people and not a few special interests.

Stefanie Beninato

I wonder why the city through its finance director Mary McCoy did not tell those city employees who were furloughed (hours cut) that they are eligible for unemployment if they can show their hours were cut because of COVID19 which is obvious from city discussions. Why did Webber and his stellar team not provide this info to city workers? To save the city from paying out its share of unemployment benefits?

Derek Gzaskow

some are getting 1k a week, but if the extra 600 ends in July there is not alot to look forward too, but its a good income for now.(double mine) the workforce solutions website for people getting hours cut is not userfriendly

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