Just one state had an incrementally higher unemployment rate than New Mexico in May, according to new federal data.
New Mexico posted a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 8% last month, according to data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That figure represents a slight decline from April’s rate, but was higher than every state’s in May other than Hawaii, which posted a rate of 8.1% in May, according to the data. The national average stood at 5.8% in May.
Rob Black, CEO of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce, said he believe the state high unemployment rate is due to a combination of New Mexico’s relatively stringent business restrictions and structural factors, including the state’s consistently low labor force participation rate.
“What we’re seeing is an exacerbation of that, for a variety of reasons,” Black said.
Earlier in June, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that New Mexico will retire all restrictions on commercial activity related to COVID-19 on July 1.
“The simple fact is: We are beating this pandemic. The best is yet to come,” Lujan Grisham said in a prepared statement.
Black said he expects the loosened restrictions to help lower the state’s unemployment rate by allowing bars, nightclubs and other establishments that have struggled to reopen at reduced capacity to operate more freely.
However, he said it’s natural for some workers to be nervous about returning to work after more than a year of caution. He encouraged the state to follow the lead of Oklahoma, which is offering 60 days of subsidized child care to residents who are looking for work due to the pandemic.
“Now, it’s time to re-engage and do it safely,” Black said.
Unemployment rate in metro Albuquerque and metro Santa Fe were each lower than the overall state rate in May, coming in at 7% in both communities, according to data from the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.
The state’s unemployment rate stood at 10% in May 2020, according to the state data. Overall, the state recovered 43,000 private-sector jobs during that period, according to the state workforce department. The mining, logging and construction sector, which includes the state’s oil and gas industry, continued to employ fewer people than it did the year prior, having shed 3,300 jobs year over year, according to state data.