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Latest data: NM jobless claims soar to 31,849

New Mexico Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley at an event last year. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The number of new unemployment claims continues to skyrocket in New Mexico, as more than 31,000 state residents filed claims this week.

According to unofficial numbers released Friday morning by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, 31,849 initial claims were filed March 19-26. Department Secretary Bill McCamley called the spike in claims “unprecedented” while speaking at Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s Friday briefing.

“No one remembers any time when there was a situation where this many people applied in this short of a timeframe,” McCamley said.

The surge in initial claims comes as New Mexico and other states are working to control the spread of COVID-19. Last week, the state workforce department’s reported number of new claims leapt from around 700 claims to nearly 11,000, after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered all restaurants, breweries and bars to close eat-in dining rooms.

This week, the number of unemployment claims nearly tripled again, after the governor’s Monday order that all “non-essential” businesses close as well.

“As you can see, the increase is exponential,” McCamley said.

Federal data released Thursday showed around 17,000 New Mexicans filed initial unemployment claims during an overlapping seven-day period that ended March 21.

In his presentation, McCamley defended the closures as helping to keep New Mexicans healthy and safe, but acknowledged they have left many temporarily without work.

“These are tough times, and people have to do some hard things,” McCamley said.

The state workforce department also reported 16,663 weekly certifications, which includes New Mexicans who are already receiving benefits as well as those who are in the system and awaiting determination.

As of Thursday evening, the state had $453 million in its unemployment trust fund, down slightly from $465 million last week. McCamley said he expects those eligible for benefits to be able to get them for the foreseeable future, as the state awaits additional federal aid.

“We expect that (fund) to be healthy for a while,” he said.

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