NM has highest unemployment rate for second month

Unemployment jumped at the end of 2015 in New Mexico, remaining highest in the country, as the effects of dropping oil prices continued to ripple across the state economy, the Department of Workforce Solutions reported Tuesday.

The state’s unemployment rate was a seasonally adjusted 6.7%, or about 61,100 workers, in December, down from 6.8 percent in November but a jump from 6 percent in December 2014. New Mexico was the only state to register a significant year-over-year increase in unemployment rate.

The average unemployment rate nationwide was 5 percent in December, down from 5.6 percent a year earlier.

The pace of the state’s year-over-year job gains slowed to 0.3 percent in December, down from 0.4 percent in November and 1.7 percent in December 2014. Job growth started the year strong, hitting a nine-year high of 2 percent in February, but the pace dropped below the 1 percent threshold for the final five months of the year.

The mining employment sector, which covers the oil and gas industry, led the way in job losses with a 9.2 percent decline or 2,600 jobs. Other employment sector likely influenced by dropping oil prices were transportation, warehousing and utilities with a drop of 5.1 percent or 1,300 jobs; and manufacturing with a 2.5 percent drop or 700 jobs.

In a rare reversal, government employment grew at a faster rate than private sector employment in December, 0.4 percent compared to 0.3 percent. Private employment growth had been outperforming government jobs all year long.

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For the second month in a row, the leisure and hospitality employment sector — mostly hotels and restaurants — performed the strongest with 4.9 percent job growth, or 4,400 new jobs, year over year.

“It is likely that growth was boosted, to some extent, by gains in the ski industry, with most of the state’s ski resorts receiving enough snow to open their lifts and runs on time,” the state’s news release said.

The state’s perennial front runner in job growth, education and health services, added 2,900 jobs for a job growth rate of 2.2 percent. The state’s largest private employment sector, education and health services is primarily made up of health care jobs.

The professional and business services employment sector, which encompasses a broad swath of white-collar jobs, added 2,500 jobs for a year-over-year growth rate of 2.5 percent.

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