Farmington MSA sees second big drop in a row in unemployment rate

Local jobless rate equals statewide rate for first time since pandemic began

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The unemployment rate for the Farmington metropolitan statistical area declined sharply again in September, allowing it to match the statewide jobless rate for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The unemployment rate for the Farmington metropolitan statistical area has run well beyond the rate for New Mexico for the duration of the pandemic. But when the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions released the new jobless figures on Oct. 22, they showed that the jobless rate in the Farmington area was 6.9% — down from the revised August rate of 7.6% and the same as the statewide rate, which also was down from the revised August rate of 7.2%.

A year ago, the unemployment rate in Farmington was 10.5%, and the rate across New Mexico was 8.6%. The state still has the fifth-highest jobless rate in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the unemployment rate in New Mexico has fallen or remained steady for eight straight months.

New Mexico posted a jobless rate of 4.8% in February 2020— the last month before the pandemic began — so the state's current rate remains more than 2 percentage points higher than that figure. Unemployment in New Mexico had soared to 11.3% by April 2020.

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Nationally, the jobless rate for September stood at 4.8% — a reduction from the August rate of 5.2% and the 7.8% rate posted in September 2020. The national unemployment rate in February 2020, before the pandemic began, was 3.5%, and the rate peaked at 14.8% in April 2020.

The September decline in the jobless rate was the second strong month in a row for the Farmington MSA. The area's unemployment rate fell from 9.3% in July to a revised figure of 7.6% in August, a reduction of 1.7%.

Nevertheless, the Farmington area continues to trail the state's three other metropolitan statistical areas in terms of keeping people working. The Albuquerque MSA once again posted the lowest jobless rate in the state at 5.5%, down from 6% in August. The Santa Fe area was second at 5.4%, down from the August figure of 5.9%, and the Las Cruces area was third at 5.7%, down from 6.3% in August.

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Luna County (11.3%) and Lea County (8%) in southern New Mexico still have the highest rates of unemployment in the state. McKinley County is third at 7.8%, and Taos County is fourth at 7.3%. Cibola County is fifth at 7.2%, and Torrance County is sixth at 7%. The San Juan County rate of 6.9% is the seventh-highest figure in New Mexico.

As usual, tiny Los Alamos County, home to Los Alamos National Laboratory, posted the lowest jobless rate in New Mexico at 2.5%. Union County (3.7) and Curry County (4.0) had the second- and third-lowest rates, respectively.

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