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New Mexico reinstates requirement for jobless to seek work

The Associated Press

SANTA FE – New Mexico has joined several other states that have reinstated the work search requirement for people who receive unemployment payments.

Starting this week, state labor officials said claimants must verify that they have made at least two work search contacts per week to continue receiving the jobless payments. They must provide information on when they contacted employers about prospective jobs, what type of work it was and other details.

The requirement had been waived during the pandemic as unemployment rates surged due to businesses closures and cutbacks to meet the state's public health restrictions. The change came as all but two New Mexico counties are now operating in the categories with the least COVID-19 restrictions.

“Help wanted” and “hiring now” signs are posted outside gas stations and at grocery stories and fast-food drive thru windows around New Mexico as business owners scramble to find workers.

Nationwide, U.S. employers posted a record number of available jobs in March, illustrating the desperation of businesses seeking to find new workers amid an expanding economy.

Michael O’Donnell, the University of New Mexico's Bureau of Business and Economic Research acting director, told the KOAT television station that the idea behind reinstating the work search requirement is to give people an incentive to look for work.

“Given that there are reportedly tons of jobs available, more than perhaps people had expected, it make sense to revert back,” he said.

New Mexico's unemployment rate stands at 8%, one of the highest in the country, and officials are hoping the change will help.

Meanwhile, New Mexico's vaccination rates are ticking up.

The latest data from the state Health Department show about 48% of residents over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and others hope the state can reach the goal of 60% next month, but parts of southeastern New Mexico and some rural counties in central New Mexico are lagging as not everyone wants to get vaccinated.

State officials on Tuesday announced that businesses, nonprofits, religious congregations, community centers and other organizations can request on-site vaccination events through a new page on the Health Department's website.

Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said the department is committed to making vaccines available to New Mexicans where they live and work.

“By offering organizations the opportunity to request on-site vaccination events, we’ll make getting a shot even easier,” she said.