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Employer workshop aims to fill jobs

An employer-only workshop this week is intended to give local businesses information to help them fill their open positions. It is being offered ahead of a planned November hiring event. (Daily Record File Photo)

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The “now hiring” signs remain plentiful in the area, and so do notices and information about changed operating hours at local businesses as some still struggle to find enough employees.

The Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp. and the city of Roswell plan to help employers with a workshop later this week to include presentations by New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions staff.

Chaves County had a 6.3% unemployment rate as of August 2021, according to unadjusted data posted on the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions website. Information for August is the most recent data available for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the resource the state uses for its website.

The county’s 6.3% unemployment figure means that 1,847 people in the county reported being out of work out of a total workforce of 29,367. That is the lowest unadjusted rate since March 2020, right before COVID-related business closures began. Then it was 5.3%, with 1,478 people out of work out of a total workforce of 27,680.

The county’s August 2021 rate compared to a similar 6.3% unadjusted rate for New Mexico, where 59,762 people reported being unemployed. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for New Mexico of 7.2% ranked it 46th in the nation in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Melissa Juarez, project manager with the Economic Development Corp., said that local employers don’t know for sure why the unemployment rate is pretty low, but the number of unfilled jobs is still high.

“We really don’t know the answer, and it is not just here or Chaves County. The problem is everywhere,” Juarez said. “It could be unemployment benefits that are affecting that, but there could be other reasons as well.”

The Economic Development Corp. worked with the city, the state and other organizations to hold two job fairs this year, one in May and one in September. A third “hiring event” is tentatively scheduled Nov. 4 at the convention center.

Juarez said that the first job fair brought in about 30 employers, while the second one had 47 employers. Some job seekers applied either on the spot or online later, but Juarez said her organization is still hearing from its member businesses and other employers across many different industries that labor shortages are a significant concern.

That why the Economic Development Corp. and the city of Roswell is holding the employer-only workshop Thursday evening. The event is scheduled for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Roswell Convention Center, 912 N. Main St.

“The Workforce Department is going to have their deputy cabinet secretary and some of their senior staff here to answer some questions and give them resources available to help,” Juarez said.

Topics expected to be addressed include customized recruitment services, job training and paid work experience programs, federal bonding programs, skills assessments and unemployment benefits criteria and rules.

“We wanted to generate employment in certain areas,” Stacy Johnson, public information officer for Workforce Solutions, said to explain why the department reached out to Roswell business groups about the workshops, which she said have been offered in other New Mexico cities as well.

The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions officials will present information to local employers at a Thursday workshop. Acting Secretary Rick Serna plans to be among the speakers, according to a Workforce Solutions spokesperson. (Submitted Photo)

She said it is possible that Acting Cabinet Secretary Rick Serna might speak and that representatives of the state Early Childhood Education and Care Department would provide information about child care.

Employers are asked to register by Oct. 20 by contacting the Economic Development Corp. at 575-622-1975 or mjuarez@chavescounty.net. About 25 businesses have signed up so far, said Juarez.

In a May 2021 article by the Workforce Solutions Department, economists Nathan Friedman and Rachel Moskowitz wrote that New Mexico did not really have a true labor shortage, where job openings far outnumber available workers, except in the areas of health care, social assistance and technical positions.

Instead, they wrote, short-term problems were being felt as employers competed for workers to meet increased consumer demand following the pandemic-related business closures. They also wrote that the “market inefficiencies” were caused by mismatches between the unemployed person’s background and the education, experience and skills that employers want. Differences between working conditions wanted by a job seeker and those offered by an open position also contribute to unfilled jobs. In addition, they wrote, demographic shifts could be a factor.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.