Farmington MSA posts major decline in jobless rate, leads statewide improvement

New Mexico still trails national unemployment rate of 5.2%

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The Farmington MSA tumbled from a revised unemployment rate of 9.3% in July to 7.5% in August.
  • That figure is only slightly higher than the rate of 7.2% for New Mexico as a whole.

FARMINGTON — All four large population centers in New Mexico saw a significant decrease in their unemployment rate in August, with Farmington's metropolitan statistical area leading the way with a 1.8% reduction.

The Farmington MSA tumbled from a revised rate of 9.3% in July to 7.5% in August, according to figures provided in a news release from the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. That figure is only slightly higher than the rate of 7.2% for New Mexico as a whole.

It also represents a major one-month decline for the Farmington area. Aside from a spike in June, unemployment has been falling in the area for several months. But those reductions typically are measured in tenths of a percentage point on a month-to-month basis. The August reduction was much higher than that.

The state's other three MSAs also saw large declines in their jobless rate. The Las Cruces MSA fell from 7.8% to 6.2%, while the Albuquerque MSA declined from 7.4% to 6%. The Santa Fe MSA saw its rate move from 7.2% to 5.9%.

The overall rate for New Mexico also declined, although not as swiftly as it did in the state's population centers. The state's 7.2% unemployment rate for August compared favorably with the revised rate of 7.6% it posted in July.

New Mexico still trails the country as a whole in getting people back to work. The U.S. unemployment rate for August was 5.2%, down from 5.4% in July.

The total land area of the Farmington, NM Metropolitan Statistical Area is 5,517.2 square miles with a water area of 21.2 square miles, according to the website http://proximityone.com/, which keeps information about MSAs across America.

The state's jobless rate is a significant improvement over where it stood a year ago. The rate in August 2020 was 9.3%. The rate for the Farmington MSA a year ago was 11.2%.

Unemployment in New Mexico has remained steady or fallen for seven straight months.

The state continues to make up ground on the rest of country since tying for the highest jobless rate in the U.S. in June, though it continues to rank near the bottom of the pack. New Mexico now is tied for 46th with Connecticut and New Jersey. New York is 49th at 7.4%, California is 50th at 7.5% and Nevada is last at 7.7%.

More:No job shortage in San Juan County despite high unemployment, experts say

Luna County in southwest New Mexico once again posted the highest jobless figure in the state in August at 12.1%, but that rate was a sharp reduction over its 14.3% showing in July. Lea County in the southeast corner of the state had the second-highest rate at 8.6%, but that was significantly lower than the 10.3% rate it recorded in July. Luna County is now the only county in the state with double-digit unemployment, while five counties held that dubious distinction as recently as June and three more barely missed the cut at 9.9%.

McKinley County had New Mexico's third-highest jobless rate in August at 8.5%, while Taos County was fourth at 7.9%. Cibola County was fifth at 7.8%, and Torrance County was sixth at 7.7%. San Juan County was seventh at 7.5%.

More:San Juan County's economy is improving, but not as much as other parts of New Mexico

Los Alamos County once again posted the lowest jobless rate in the state at 2.7%, a healthy reduction from the 3.5% rate it showed in July. Union County was second at 4.1%, while Curry County was third at 4.4%. Hildalgo County was fourth at 4.7%, and De Baca County was fifth at 4.9%.

According to the press release, the leisure and hospitality industry has led the way in New Mexico's economic upturn over the past year, as it has added 20,500 jobs — or 27.4% — since August 2020.

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The unemployment rate in New Mexico in March 2020 — effectively, the last month before the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic began to make themselves felt — was 6.3%. By April 2020, it had soared to 11.3%. The Farmington MSA posted a jobless rate of 13.3% that month.

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