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NM unemployment still highest in U.S.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico’s unemployment rate remained the worst in the nation in February, although the state got some good news when it comes to job growth.

New Mexico’s 0.5 percent increase in employment in February compared to the month before was tied with Arkansas for second highest in the nation when it comes to percentage increases, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. At the top were Montana and Nebraska.

That percentage change was the same when comparing February to February 2016, and the “vast majority” of that improvement is due to reduced losses in the mining sector, which includes the hard-hit oil and gas industry, according to the state Department of Workforce Solutions.

Mining  saw a loss of 2,100  jobs, or 9.9  percent,  in  February, but a state news release pointed out that the “percentage losses are no longer in the double digits.”

“At the current rate of improvement, we may see over-the-year losses fully dissipate in the next few months,” the news release said.

As for unemployment, New Mexico’s rate increased slightly compared to January, from 6.7 percent to 6.8 percent. In addition, the state is increasingly being left behind other states with high unemployment.

The gap between New Mexico and Alaska, which continues to have the second-highest unemployment rate, is now 0.4 percentage points. That compares to 0.2 percentage points in January.

The national unemployment rate is 4.7 percent.