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The Daily Times

Unemployment keeps falling in New Mexico, but so does size of work force

By Mike Easterling, Farmington Daily Times,


FARMINGTON — As it has for much of 2022, unemployment fell again in New Mexico and in the Farmington area in November, but a close look at the numbers reveals all may not be well with the state’s economy.

The statewide jobless rate declined from 4.3% in October to 4.1% in November. That allowed New Mexico to continue to close the gap on the national unemployment rate of 3.7%, which remained unchanged from October. It also represented a considerable improvement over the statewide rate of 6% that New Mexico posted in November 2021.

But the number of people actually working in New Mexico fell by more than 100 people in November. That means the reduction in the unemployment rate was achieved by a corresponding reduction in the size of the state’s labor force — that is, people who have left the state or given up on finding work. Overall, the size of New Mexico’s labor force is nearly 3,200 people smaller than it was a year ago.

The same dynamic holds true in the Farmington metropolitan statistical area, where nearly 100 fewer people were working in November than in October. But the area’s overall labor force declined by more than 300 people from month to month, allowing the jobless rate to go down. Farmington’s unemployment rate was 6.6% a year ago, but the size of its labor force was 1,600 people smaller in November than it had been 12 months earlier.

The news was a little better in the Las Cruces MSA. It posted a jobless rate of 4% in November, down from 4.2% in October, but it added nearly 75 employed people over the previous month. However, its overall work force shrunk by 175 people, providing for most of the decrease in the unemployment rate. The jobless rate in the Las Cruces area was 5.6% a year ago, and the size of the work force has grown by nearly 300 people over the last year.

The news from the state’s other two MSAs, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, also was a mixed bag. Santa Fe has the lowest jobless rate among the state’s MSAs in November at 3%, down from 3.5% in October, and it added 1,400 workers to its labor force from month to month. The number of employed people also grew by 60 workers. But Santa Fe’s labor force is still approximately 500 people smaller than it was a year ago, when the jobless rate there was 5%.

Albuquerque’s unemployment rate fell from 3.7% is October to 3.3% in November, as the Duke City added nearly 4,000 employed people from month to month. It also saw the overall size of its work force increase by nearly 1,800 people. But its work force remains substantially smaller than it was a year ago — by more than 7,100 people, in fact — and that was the main factor in its jobless rate declining from 5.2% in November 2021.

New Mexico was tied for the 37th spot in the national unemployment rankings in October with Arizona, California and West Virginia. Nevada has the highest jobless rate in the country at 4.9%, while Utah sat atop the rankings at 2.2%.

Among New Mexico counties, Luna County fared the worst with an 11.1% jobless rate — up significantly from the 9.4% rate it posted in October. Sierra County was next at 5.1%, followed by McKinley and Cibola (5%), Torrance (4.9%), Taos (4.7%), Mora (4.6%) and San Miguel (4.4%) counties. San Juan County had the ninth-highest unemployment rate in the state at 4.3%.

Los Alamos County again had the lowest jobless rate in the state at 1.7%, down from 2.1% a month earlier. Union and Harding counties were next at 2.1%, followed by Curry and De Baca (2.6%), Eddy (2.8%) and Hidalgo (2.9%) counties.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 Support local journalism with a digital subscription:

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