The unemployment rate in New Mexico remains the highest in the nation, with no change from the last time numbers were released. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday that New Mexico’s nonfarm, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in March was 6.7 percent for the second consecutive month. Meanwhile the nationwide unemployment rate dropped from 4.7 percent in February to 4.5 percent in April, with 17 states seeing lower rates and 33 states, including New Mexico, with stable rates. New Mexico’s neighbor to the north, Colorado, had the lowest employment rate in the nation March—just 2.6 percent. Utah had an unemployment rate of 3.1 percent and Arizona and Texas each had rates of 5 percent.
New Mexico’s economy sputtered and sank into negative territory in April as the downturn in the oil and gas industry continued to drag the economy down. The state lost 300 jobs in the year that ended April 30, for a negative 0.01 percent growth rate, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday. It was the first time in several years that overall job growth turned negative, and it showed just how dependent the state’s economy is on the oil and gas sector, which lost 6,400 jobs over the year for a negative 25 percent growth rate. Related industries also shed jobs, including trade, transportation and utilities, which was down 2,000 jobs, or 2.5 percent, and construction, which was off 900 jobs, or 2 percent. Six industry sectors lost jobs and five gained them, according to the BLS figures, which were not seasonally adjusted.
With reports that New Mexico has a net-negative job growth, it should perhaps come as no surprise that the fastest-shrinking city in the country is in New Mexico. A report by 24/7 Wall St. found that the Farmington, New Mexico metropolitan statistical area is the fastest-shrinking city in the country. Farmington was the only New Mexico city to land on the list, which tracked cities from 2010 to 2015. According to the report, Farmington has seen its population shrink by 8.8 percent in the last five years. This is more than two percentage points higher than second place, Pine Bluff, Arkansas with 6.38 percent.
The Albuquerque metro area’s economy continued to lag behind other areas in the region in terms of job growth in February. The area added 3,200 jobs in the year that ended Feb. 29 for a 0.9 percent growth rate. But that was tied for last in terms of jobs growth for 10 metro areas in the region. Austin had a 4.2 percent growth rate, in Phoenix it was 3.5 percent, and in El Paso it was 3 percent, according to data Wednesday from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The oil and gas industry has been a bright spot in the New Mexico economy over the past few years. But with the price of oil staying low and showing no signs of improving, that may be changing. Albuquerque Business First reported that job cuts from the international conglomerate ConocoPhillips will include cuts in New Mexico. ConocoPhillips is the top gas producer in the state and one of the top oil producers in the state. From Business First:
“I can confirm that our company has decided to reduce our workforce by 10 percent.
While recent news has shown New Mexico is adding jobs, a report from Stateline at the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that New Mexico is still far from average when it comes to filling the hole dug by the recession. The report shows that since the worst employment numbers during the recession, New Mexico is among the states with the least amount of jobs recovery. The report cites federal data. Ten states (Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and West Virginia) have seen total employment grow 5 percent or less compared to their lowest points, according to the analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. On average, employment has increased 8 percent among all 50 states and the District of Columbia since each one’s individual nadir.While the average is eight percent, New Mexico’s recovery lags behind at just 3.77 percent since September of 2010.
The nosedive in prices for crude oil will result in lower employment in the oil and gas extraction industry in New Mexico. The Albuquerque Journal reported on Wednesday that the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department predicted a drop of at least 2,000 jobs in the industry because of the lower cost of crude oil. Wally Drangmeister, a spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, told New Mexico Political Report said that with crude oil prices dropping, companies need to adjust. “Companies are looking for every efficiency they have,” Drangmeister said in a short phone interview. One efficiency is fewer explorations, less “wildcat wells” in “unproven areas.”