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Even as N.M. Lost More Jobs, Jobless Rate Dipped to 6.5%

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Unemployment rates rose in more than half of U.S. states last month, and New Mexico posted its third month of negative job growth, the latest evidence of the see-saw nature of hiring across the country.

The Labor Department said rates increased in 26 states, fell in 12 and were unchanged in the other 12. Unemployment also rose in seven of the 11 key swing states in this year’s presidential election.

Employment increased in 28 states and decreased in 21 – including New Mexico – and was unchanged in Colorado.

While New Mexico’s unemployment rate dipped to 6.5 percent in August after it rose to 6.6 percent in July, the state’s job growth was negative for the third consecutive month.

The rate of over-the-year job growth, comparing August 2012 with August 2011, was negative 1.5 percent, representing a loss of 12,400 jobs, New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions spokeswoman Joy Forehand said in a news release.

New Mexico industries that added jobs included education, health care, hospitality and mining.

Government payrolls shrank by 5,800 jobs from their year-earlier total, with losses ongoing at all three levels: state, down 3,700; federal, down 1,700; and local, down 400. Professional and business services, down 5,700, posted a similar dip, while construction was down about 3,000.

New Mexico had the most drastic drop among the 30 states that lost construction jobs for the month, with a 6.8 percent drop, the Associated General Contractors reported Friday.

“Construction employment continues to decline in many states as key tax and infrastructure decisions languish in Washington,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.

Nationwide, employers added only 96,000 jobs in August, below July’s gain of 141,000 and the average of 226,000 jobs a month added in January-March quarter.

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent in July, but the Labor Department said that was only because many people gave up looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively searching for jobs.

Nevada continued to have the highest unemployment rate at 12.1 percent in August, followed by Rhode Island at 10.7 percent and California at 10.6 percent.

North Dakota had the lowest jobless rate at 3.0 percent.

On a regional basis, the West continued to record the highest regional unemployment rate in August, 9.4 percent, while the Midwest again reported the lowest rate, 7.5 percent.
— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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