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Analysis of unemployment figures shows mixed news for New Mexico

State shed more than 65,000 jobs over 12-month period

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • New Mexico's unemployment rate in December marked the first time since July 2020 that the jobless rate had increased.
  • The Farmington MSA shed 7,400 jobs over the previous 12 months — 3,700 in total nonfarm employment, 2,600 jobs in the private sector and 1,100 jobs in local government.
  • San Juan County ranked seventh in the state with an average weekly wage of $870.

FARMINGTON — New Mexico's unemployment rate for December ranked in the middle of the pack for the southwestern United States, but the state ranked near the bottom of the region in terms of jobs lost over the past 12 months.

The monthly Labor Market Review produced by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions showed the state's jobless rate of 8.2% was sixth in the nine-state region. Utah had the lowest unemployment rate at 3.6%, followed by Wyoming (4.8%), Oklahoma (5.3%), Texas (7.2%) and Arizona (7.5%). Trailing New Mexico were Colorado (8.4%), California (9%) and Nevada (9.2%).

According to the review, New Mexico's unemployment rate in December marked the first time since July 2020 that the jobless rate had increased. The document notes that the increase likely was caused by the additional COVID-19 restrictions that went into effect on Nov. 19, causing many businesses to shut their doors again.

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New Mexico also has lost more than 65,000 — or 7.5% — of its jobs since December 2019, according to the review. That was the second-worst showing in the region, with only California faring worse at 8%. Utah again led the way with a 0.6% increase in jobs, while Arizona was second with a loss of 2.7% and Texas was third with a loss of 3.3%.

The release of December unemployment figures for the state in January had shown the Farmington area was especially hard hit by the rising unemployment trend, with the city's metropolitan statistical area ranking at the bottom of the state's four MSAs with a jobless rate of 8.9%.

But the review released on Feb. 5 shed additional light on that situation, revealing that the Farmington MSA shed 7,400 jobs over the previous 12 months — 3,700 in total nonfarm employment, 2,600 jobs in the private sector and 1,100 jobs in local government.

A statewide analysis of the average weekly wage in the private sector contained better news for the area. San Juan County still trailed the statewide average wage of $911, but it ranked seventh in the state at $870. Unsurprisingly, tiny Los Alamos County — home to Los Alamos National Laboratory — led the way with a average weekly wage of $1,691. Eddy County was second at $1,209, and Lea County was third at $994. Sandoval County ($947) and Bernalillo County ($954) were next, while Santa Fe County just edged out San Juan County at $874.

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San Juan County fared much better in the survey than its neighbors Rio Arriba County ($742) and McKinley County ($634). Catron County was at the bottom of the listings at a weekly average wage of $491, while San Miguel County was next at $535.

The review also included some interesting numerical snapshots from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. The five-year estimates, which were released in December 2020 and include data from 2019, cover demographic, social, economic and housing indicators.

The estimates included in the Department of Workforce Solutions' monthly review did not break the numbers down on a county-by-county level, but they did reveal how New Mexico as a whole compares to the national average. They also revealed which counties in the state ranked at the top and bottom of each category.

Among the more notable categories were those that deal with education level. For percentage of residents with at least a high school diploma, New Mexico's 84.7% trailed the national figure of 87.3%. Los Alamos County led the way with 98.1%, while Luna County was last at 71.7%.

For the percentage of residents with a bachelor's degree or more, New Mexico (27.4%) was well behind the national average (32.3%). Los Alamos County again led the way at 67.4%, while Guadalupe County trailed the field at 7.6%.

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In the race and ethnicity category, New Mexico far exceeded the national average of 18% for percentage of residents who identify as Hispanic/Latino at 48.8%. Mora County led the way at 81.5%, while McKinley County was the lowest at 14.2%.

For the category of percentage of persons identifying as white alone, New Mexico was much closer to the national average of 72.5% with a figure of 74.8%. Catron County had the highest ranking in the state at 97.9%, while McKinley County was lowest at 14.4%.

There were two language categories included in the survey. For percentage of residents who speak a language other than English at home, New Mexico's 34% far exceeded the national average of 21.6%. Mora County led the state at 67.3%, while Los Alamos County was the lowest at 14.3%.

And in the category of those who speak primarily Spanish at home, New Mexico almost doubled the national average of 13.4% with a figure of 26.6%. Mora County again led the way at 65.8%, while Mora County was the lowest at 5%.

The raw Census data can be accessed at https://data.census.gov/cedsci/.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.