In a single month, New Mexico’s official unemployment rate rose from its lowest point since the Great Recession to its highest point in several years.
And there’s plenty of reasons to believe the worst may be yet to come as economic data from the coronavirus crisis continues to trickle in.
The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions’s labor market review for the month of March, released Saturday, notes the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose from 4.8% in February to 5.9% in March as a result of layoffs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
While such an increase is unprecedented for New Mexico in the last decade, Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley said once data is released for the month of April, it will likely show the unemployment rate is even higher.
Stacy Johnston, a spokeswoman for the state workforce department, said the unemployment rate, which is based on the Current Population Survey, averages survey data throughout the month. Since the spread of the new coronavirus didn’t reach New Mexico and begin to prompt business closures until the middle of March, Johnston said the review won’t capture the full scope of New Mexico’s job losses until data from April is available.
“We’re really going to see an increase next month,” Johnston said.
More than 10% of the state’s labor force filed initial unemployment claims between March 12 and April 15, and the state totaled more weekly unemployment certifications in April than it did at any point during the Great Recession.
According to the monthly report, nearly 55% of New Mexicans claiming unemployment insurance are women, a significant reversal from the beginning of March, when just 40% of claimants were women. The report attributes the shift to job losses in the accommodation and food service industry, which skews female in New Mexico.
Through April 11, 24.7% of claimants worked in the accommodation and food service industry, as restaurants and bars were forced to shift to takeout and delivery or close completely to prevent the spread of the virus.
“It is not surprising that the number of unemployed claimants in food preparation and serving related occupations have increased due to these restrictions,” the report reads.
The report also notes more New Mexicans work in accommodation and food service than the national average.
“Because of this, the COVID-19 health crisis could hurt New Mexico’s economy more than other states,” the report reads.
Additionally, the spike in claims has disproportionately impacted younger workers. Just over half the initial claims came from workers 35 and younger, according to the report. Claims among workers younger than 25 increased a staggering 1,249% between March 7 and April 11, while claims from those between the ages of 25 and 34 increased by 632%.
Across the state, the unemployment rate was lowest in Los Alamos and Eddy counties, which each posted a rate of 3.7%, and highest in Luna County, with a rate of 20.1%
The rate in metro Albuquerque stood at 5.3%, according to the report.