New Mexico Workforce Solutions Secretary Ken Ortiz today presented the latest on the state's skyrocketing unemployment to the state House Committee on Labor & Human Resources.

Among the facts he laid out:

Weekly jobless claims increased 500 percent

between June 2008 and December 2009. There were approximately 12,000 New Mexicans claiming jobless benefits, according to Ortiz' charts. Now there are approximately 60,000.

When question time came around, state Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell laid into Ortiz, first by complaining that she'd been unable to get through to him, or anyone at the department, despite repeated calls over a period of weeks.

But Ezzell wasn't about to sympathize with the thousands of New Mexicans who routinely spend hours on the phone checking on the status of their jobless benefits. No, she was

upset that the state wasn't drug testing people collecting unemployment



With her references to "caseworkers"--which are assigned to people on probation, or claiming certain types of welfare benefits, but not to people collecting unemployment insurance--Ezzell, for all her forcefulness, seemed unsure about how the system actually worked.

Ezzell was absent for the next section of the committee meeting. SFR asked Ortiz after his presentation if he got the impression that Ezzell knew what unemployment insurance was.

"No," Ortiz said. "Did you?"