New Mexico unemployment rate stable, but most parts of state show increase

Farmington MSA continues to have highest rate among state's urban areas

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — New Mexico's progress in putting people back to work after the COVID-19 pandemic stalled in January, with the unemployment rate remaining the same as a month earlier and climbing in the Farmington area and many other parts of the state.

The state's rate of 5.9% was the same as the revised rate for December 2021, according to figures from the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. That ranked last among all 50 states, leading only the District of Columbia's unemployment rate of 6.3%. New Mexico had posted the fifth-highest jobless rate in the country a month earlier.

But the January figures did mark the 12th consecutive month the unemployment rate in the state has not increased. The jobless rate in January 2021 in New Mexico was 7.4%.

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Joblessness across the United States rose slightly from a month earlier, going from 3.9% in December to 4% in January, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The U.S. unemployment rate in January 2021 was 6.4%.

New Mexico's urban areas fared poorly in the January survey, with all four of the state's metropolitan statistical areas reporting increases, perhaps due to the end of holiday employment. The Farmington MSA once again had the state's highest jobless rate at 6.7%, up from the revised rate of 6.2% in December. However, Farmington did post the largest one-year unemployment rate decrease at 2.4%.

The Santa Fe MSA had the lowest rate at 5%, up from 4.6% in December, and Albuquerque was next at 5.1%, an increase over the 4.8% rate of a month earlier. Las Cruces was third at 5.7%, up from December's rate of 5.2%.

Despite the increase in the local unemployment rate, San Juan County slightly improved its standing compared to other counties in the state, going from seventh in December to ninth in January with its 6.7% rate.

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Luna County continued to have the highest jobless rate in the state at 15.5%, followed by McKinley County at 8.1%, Sierra County at 7.8%, Taos County at 7.4% and Cibola County at 7.3%. Lea County was next at 7.2%, followed by Torrance and Guadalupe counties at 7%.

Unemployment was lowest in Los Alamos County at 2.6%, followed by Union County at 3.8%. In December, New Mexico had seven counties with a jobless rate of less than 4%, but a month later, only two counties could claim that distinction, another indication of how January's increases were felt virtually statewide.

In the January edition of the Labor Market Review, a monthly analysis of employment trends by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, a quarterly census of employment and wages by economist Michelle Doran revealed that San Juan County workers posted the sixth-highest average weekly wage of any county in the state at $948. Los Alamos led the way at $2,027, followed by Eddy County at $1,240, Lea County at $1,067, Bernalillo County at $1,014 and Torrance County at $966.

Catron County had lowest average weekly wage at $530, while San Miguel County was next at $574. Colfax County reported a figure of $587, and McKinley County was next at $604.

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