New Mexico ties for highest jobless rate in nation, while Farmington MSA shows spike

Increase in size of labor market likely contributes to rise in unemployment figure for Farmington

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — New Mexico was tied for the highest unemployment rate in the nation in June, while the Farmington Metropolitan Statistical Area saw its jobless rate jump by 1.4 percentage points, according to figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.

The state's unemployment rate of 7.9% in June matched the adjusted figure for May, which originally was reported as 8%. New Mexico is tied for the highest jobless rate in the county with Connecticut, but the June showing allowed the state to extend its streak to five months since the unemployment rate has increased. It also was well below the June 2020 rate of 9.8%.

The Farmington MSA was not as fortunate. After falling to 8.5% in May, the jobless rate in the area jumped to 9.9% in June — by far the highest of the state's four MSAs. The Santa Fe MSA had the lowest rate at 7.8%, while the Albuquerque MSA was second at 8.1% and the Las Cruces MSA was third at 8.4%.

All four MSAs across the state saw a substantial increase in their jobless rate from May to June.

In Farmington's case, the increase was driven at least partly by an increase in the size of the labor force, which grew to nearly 51,000 people in June from nearly 50,000 people in May. That spike likely indicated an increase in the number of people who had stopped looking for work returning to the job hunt.

That number in Farmington has increased considerably over the last year. In June of 2020, early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the labor force for the Farmington MSA consisted of only a little more than 47,000 people. The jobless rate here at that point was 11.8%. But the Farmington MSA still has not rallied the pre-pandemic level of 52,185 people in its labor force it saw in December 2019.

The Albuquerque and Las Cruces areas also saw increases to the size of their labor force in June, while the Santa Fe MSA posted a slight decrease.

Unemployment across the state continues to be much higher than the national rate of 5.9%. But the U.S. jobless rate increased slightly from month to month, rising from 5.8% in May. That figure was still considerably less than the 11.1% rate the nation saw in June 2020.

Even though the state's jobless rate was static, unemployment increased in many counties across the state, even those at opposite ends of the spectrum. Luna County continued to have the highest rate in New Mexico at 16.5% while Lea County was second at 11.3% and McKinley County was third at 10.9%. Taos County was tied for fourth at 10.4% with Cibola County, while San Juan County and Torrance County were tied for sixth at 9.9%.

Los Alamos County once again had the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 3.6%, while Harding County was second at 4.3% and Union County was third at 4.8%. But all 10 of those counties showed a month-to-month increase.

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