Unemployment figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last week show New Mexico with an 8.5 percent jobless rate for November – a full one percent below the national average – but an increase of one tenth percent compared to October and four tenths percent compared to November 2009.
John Hemphill, director of the New Mexico Workforce Connection office in Ruidoso, says the numbers have been fairly level in spite of the state’s percentage, and he expects that to continue.
“I think it will be level through the second quarter of next year,” Hemphill said. “After that, we’ll probably see an increase of jobs available.”
Hemphill said national corporations have delayed hiring new employees until they see what will happen with the incoming Congress.
On a local level, Hemphill said the verdict on future employment figures is still out until the incoming Susanna Martinez gubernatorial administration takes power in Santa Fe.
Regardless the political machinations regarding the employment rates, organizations like New Mexico Workforce Solutions and the Ruidoso Valley Chamber of Commerce are doing what they can to lower the unemployment rates.
“Our main goal is to help individuals either with retraining to pursue a different field if their occupation has changed, or train them to get a job in the first place,” Hemphill said. “We also assist employers in Lincoln County with any employment needs they have.”
Hemphill said the contacts with employers are vital to his agency’s mission.
“Without the employers, we wouldn’t have anywhere to send people looking for jobs,” Hemphill said. “The employers are our number one customers.”
At the federal level, Democratic Senator Tom Udall has seen legislation passed to help ease the unemployment situation – such as the Small Business Lending Act – but says there’s so much more that needs to be done for states like New Mexico.
“There is no doubt that New Mexicans are struggling as we move through this holiday season.” Udall said. “To get our economy back on track, we must support businesses so they can create new jobs and help families make ends meet.
“We’ve just completed 11 straight months of private sector job growth, but until our state unemployment numbers significantly decrease, we must take every opportunity to build on the programs we have implemented to create jobs and get people back to work,” he added.
Representative-elect Steve Pearce said job creation in his district – particularly in southern New Mexico – is his top priority.
“When I take office Jan. 1, I will work to reduce the costly regulations that have made it difficult or impossible for businesses to hire,” Pearce said. “Small business is the backbone of our country, but we’re taxing and regulating it out of existence. People expect government to operate so as to not kill their own jobs.
“If we find commonsense balance points in regulation, small business will create the jobs America needs,” he added. “In Congress, I will work to get our hardworking Americans back to work and off the unemployment list.”
Sandi Aguilar, director of the Ruidoso Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the problem with the Ruidoso economy is its heavy reliance on tourism.
“That means we have a lot of seasonal workers, and businesses probably aren’t hiring as many in this economy,” Aguilar said. “My advice to them would be to reduce the number of hours for each employee rather than reduce the workforce. That way, people are still employed.”
That would also mean people may need more than one job to make ends meet, which is why the chamber has posted job openings to give potential employees an idea of where work is available.
Aguilar has no statistics to show how many businesses have opened or closed in Ruidoso in the past year, but she’s seen a number of new businesses starting up in the area.
She added that the overall employment situation has leveled out.
“It’s a fickle economy, but employment opportunities are everywhere,” Aguilar said. “People won’t work at the same place for a long time, but they’ll be working somewhere.
Aguilar also stressed locals should shop in town, rather than trying to find a better deal somewhere else.
“By shopping locally, we keep our people employed,” Aguilar said. “We also have to think about what shopping locally means for our economy. Every dollar spent in Ruidoso is important.”