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NM’s unemployment rate in No. 1 in nation again

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico, for the third consecutive month, has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, while neighbor Colorado had the lowest rate, according to figures released by the federal government Friday.

New Mexico’s rate for March was 6.7 percent, a slight drop from February’s 6.8 percent. The only other state with an unemployment rate above 6 percent was Alaska, the second-highest in the nation at 6.4 percent.

The state for years had job growth and unemployment rates that were better than, or at least equal to, the nation’s as a whole.

However, while other states have been recovering from the Great Recession, New Mexico has continued to struggle.

“Clearly something is different now than before the recession. It’s something that is significant and not just data noise or a bad day,” said University of New Mexico’s Jeff Mitchell, concerning the state’s economy.

Mitchell, director of the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business & Economic Research, and others comment on the state of New Mexico’s economy in a report in Monday’s Business Outlook.

Meanwhile, New Mexico’s job growth in March was 0.8 percent compared to March 2016, the state Department of Workforce Solutions reported. That was more than twice as large as the year-over-year growth in February.

In particular, private-sector employment was up 1.2 percent in New Mexico. That was the biggest gain since July 2015 – good news for a state that is trying to reduce its dependence on government jobs. New Mexico’s economy also has been hard hit by the crash in oil prices in 2014.

The largest numeric jobs gain in the state was in the leisure and hospitality sector, which was up 4.0 percent. That’s the biggest jump since November 2006, according to Workforce Solutions.

Colorado, with a March unemployment rate of 2.6 percent, was among four states with the lowest rates since 1976. The other states are Arkansas, Maine and Oregon.

The national unemployment rate last month was 4.5 percent, slightly lower than in February.