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NM unemployment worst in the nation

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico’s unemployment rate is now the highest in the nation, after failing to budge from the 6.7 percent rate it has been stuck at for several months.

The 6.7 percent figure for January is the same as December’s and slightly higher than the 6.5 percent rate recorded in January 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Labor and the state.

The national rate was 4.8 percent.

Alaska’s rate had been worse than New Mexico’s, but it fell slightly in January, leaving New Mexico behind, according to the figures.

Ben Cloutier, spokesman for the state’s Economic Development Department, said New Mexico’s economy has been too dependent on the federal government and the oil and gas industry. That’s why it was hit hard by the downturn in oil and gas prices and sequestration, the automatic budget cuts the federal government imposed in 2013, he said.

“That’s why it’s so important to keep fighting for a more business-friendly environment,” Cloutier said in a written statement. “Just recently, Facebook chose to make New Mexico home for its newest data center, which is creating thousands of new (construction) jobs and will bring billions in new investments.”

Cloutier also mentioned Safelite and Keter as examples of companies deciding to “make New Mexico home as a result of our powerful incentives and our favorable tax environment. We have to continue to focus on diversifying our economy and growing our private sector to bring more jobs and investment to our state.”

Nationwide, unemployment rates fell in five states, while the rates in Arkansas and Oregon fell to the lowest on records dating to 1976. Hawaii had the second-lowest rate in the U.S., with 2.8 percent, followed by Colorado and South Dakota, at 2.9 percent each.

New Mexico employment grew by 900 jobs, or 0.1 percent, between January 2016 and January 2017, according to a state news release.