is the minimum number of hospitality and food service workers in Santa Fe County who make less than the city’s living wage of $9.85 an hour, according to employer surveys by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.

Tourism jobs trends

Industry watchers say this summer should be better than last, as far as the Santa Fe tourism scene goes. But no one expects a fast return to the glory days, before the combination of Al Qaeda attacks and Wall Street crises frightened Texas retirees into parking their RVs, pulling the blinds and staying home to watch the latest disaster unfold on Fox News.

New Mexico Lodging Association President Art Bouffard sounds more upbeat than he has in months.

"I think we're going to see a slight increase from last year's summer numbers. We'll probably see a 1.5-2 percent increase in [hotel] occupancy," Bouffard tells SFR. "That's an indication that some people are starting to do some traveling."

Unfortunately, a 2 percent increase barely begins to make up for the nearly 10 percent drop in occupancy from the year before last.

That means fewer job opportunities in food service, hospitality and retail. And for the 23,000-odd Santa Feans now employed in those tourism-related sectors, fewer tourists equals fewer hours.

While the latest state jobs figures show slight increases in hospitality and retail, the seasonal bump is shallower than it used to be.

"We are still not at the levels that we usually expect during the summer months," Bouffard says. "Until you get travelers, you don't fully staff."

On the upside, slightly higher gas prices aren't expected to kill demand. The US Energy Information Administration, a Department of Energy agency, forecasts fuel consumption to increase substantially over last summer, despite average gasoline pump prices increasing by an estimated 35 cents per gallon over last summer, to $2.79 per gallon.