Despite gains, N.M. unemployment still near top in nation

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Employment gains in construction and hospitality continue to boost job growth in New Mexico even as the state unemployment rate remains the second highest in the nation.

New Mexico's unemployment rate in November was 6.1 percent, down from 6.7 percent a year ago, and the only state along with Alaska to have an unemployment rate above 6 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The analysis released Friday was the last for 2017 with the full 12-month report of 2017 through December set for release Jan. 23.

For the period from November 2016 to November 2017, the state added 9,600 nonagricultural jobs for a growth rate of 1.1 percent, about the national average.

But private-sector growth in New Mexico is now outpacing the rest of the country and has expanded for 12 consecutive months, according to the state Department of Workforce Solutions.

Growth in construction jobs statewide is in the top 10 nationally, and overall, New Mexico is in the top third of states in private-sector expansion for the yearlong reporting period ending in November, according to economists at Workforce Solutions.

For the 12-month period:

• Construction added 3,000 jobs. 6.7 percent

• Leisure and hospitality added 2,600 jobs, 2.7 percent

• Professional and business services added 2,000 jobs, 2 percent

• Transportation, warehousing and utilities added 1,400 jobs, 5.6 percent.

The declines came in public sector categories, with local government dropping 1,500 positions, state government 1,400 and the federal government down 100 jobs from last November.

Utah led all states for the reporting period with job growth of 2.8 percent, while Alaska, Wyoming and West Virginia, still reeling from cutbacks in the energy sector, are the only three states still seeing job losses.

The national unemployment rate was 4.1 percent, also unchanged from October, but down from 4.6 percent a year ago.

Of New Mexico's counties, Los Alamos County and Union County had the lowest rate of 3.7 percent, with Luna County the highest at 14.4 percent. The unemployment rate in Taos County was 7.7 percent while the unemployment rate in Santa Fe was 4.9 percent.

New Mexico has lagged the rest of country in recovery since the end of the recession and had the worst unemployment rate in the country for most of 2016. But with a recovery in the price of crude oil, there are fewer sectors shedding jobs and more showing modest growth.

The rebound is also being being seen in state revenues, which are benefiting from higher tax payments due to stronger consumer spending and severance tax collections from oil production. When lawmakers convene for the 2018 Legislature, they are expected to see almost $200 million in new revenue -- the best forecast in three years.

Contact Bruce Krasnow at brucek@sfnewmexican.­com. This story first published in the Santa Fe New Mexican, a sibling publication of The Taos News.

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