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NM lags nation for employment in prime age group

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico lags the country by a wide margin in the recovery of jobs for adults of prime working age from 2007 to mid 2015, according to an analysis of employment data by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Employment in the 25-54 age group was down 7.1 percentage points in the state from the eve of  the Great Recession until  six years after it officially ended, well above the national average of a 2.9 percentage point deficit over the same period.

Put another way, the Pew analysis says, “There were 7.2 fewer employed people among every 100 New Mexicans of prime working age.”

New Mexico was among 23 states with “statistically significant employment rate differences,” the analysis said. After New Mexico, states with the biggest deficits from 2007 to mid 2015 were Georgia at 5.4 percentage points and Tennessee and Nevada both at 5.3 percentage points.

Only Massachusetts and Minnesota were on the threshold of a full return to their prime-age employment levels of calendar year 2007.

New Mexico’s employment rate dropped from an average of 79.1 percent for the 2007 calendar year, just short of the national average of 79.9 percent, to an average of 72 percent for fiscal year 2015, which ended July 31, well off the national average of 77 percent.

As of FY 2015, New Mexico’s employment rate for the prime working age group of 72 percent was third lowest in the country behind Mississippi at 70.9 percent and Kentucky at 71.7 percent.

Compared to the more closely watched unemployment rate, the Pew analysis says the employment rate presents a clearer measure of labor market conditions since it accounts for everybody — the employed on one side and those without a job, for whatever reason, on the other.

In contrast, the unemployment rate excludes unemployed people who are not looking for jobs.

In addition, the Pew analysis focuses on the 25-54 age group, thus reducing the distortion in the data from younger and older workers. Younger people might choose education over a job, for example, while older workers might choose retirement over work.