ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — The parking lot outside of state job bank New Mexico Workforce Connection is far from empty Friday.
Unemployed and underemployed New Mexicans shuffle in and out looking for a job or a better job.
Statistically speaking, there should be fewer here than last year. The state's unemployment rate has dropped from 7.5 percent in July 2011 to 6.6 percent in July 2012.
But hidden in that improvement is a nagging problem: chronic unemployment.
Take Max Martinez for example. He's an Army veteran who tells KRQE News 13 he was laid off after the furniture company he was working for filed for bankruptcy. That was four years ago.
"Well basically [employers will] say you sound good, you're one of the main candidates, but you never hear back from them," Martinez said. "I pretty much gave up a long time ago, but I still try."
Gabe Candelaria has been out of work for more than a year.
"I've been trying to apply for so many jobs, but nobody's hiring me," Candelaria said.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics more than half of unemployed New Mexicans have been out of work for longer than 15 weeks. Augusta Meyers with New Mexico Workforce Connection says the problem is typically a lack of training.
"Anyone with a high school education or less, they may be looking [for work] a little while longer," Meyers said.
The struggle to find work could get tougher soon. Anyone who lost a job in June or earlier potentially could have been eligible for 73 weeks of state and federal unemployment benefits. That number dropped to 60 weeks in July, and starting Monday that maximum will be trimmed even further to 54 weeks because of changes in federal law.
Anyone currently receiving federal unemployment benefits is not affected by the latest change, but anyone laid off from now on or still collecting up to 26 weeks of state unemployment will see reduced benefits.
Federal unemployment benefits as a whole are set to expire in 2013 unless Congress extends them. That would cut jobless benefits available to just 26 weeks of state benefits.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, New Mexico employment peaked in February 2008 with 909,260 people employed. Since then, more than 45,000 jobs have been lost.
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.