NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.6 % in February, down from 5.9 % in January and down from 7.3 % in the previous year.

“What we are in right now is still very much a recovering economy,” said University of New Mexico Associate Professor of Finance doctor Reilly White.

Dr. White said after reviewing those unemployment numbers says might be shock value to some
“This is often it sounds surprising for many people, but this is very typical, often here in New Mexico,” said White.

New Mexico takes longer to recover from dips in the economy compared to other states, white said this report is a good one. “We have recovered, we’re recovering jobs, and they’re increasing in sectors that were hit the hardest by the pandemic,” said White.

The national unemployment rate in February was 3.8 %, down from 4.0 % in January and down from 6.2% in February 2021.

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Total nonagricultural payroll employment grew by 50,100 jobs, or 6.4%, between February 2021 and February 2022. Most gains came from the private sector, which was up 44,500 jobs, or 7.3%. The public sector was up 5,600 jobs or 3.2%. Most private-sector gains were in the private service-providing industries, which were up 37,500 jobs, or 7.2%, while the goods-producing industries were up 7,000 jobs, representing an increase of 7.7%.

Seven major industry sectors reported over-the-year job increases. Leisure and hospitality experienced the largest employment growth with a gain of 24,000 jobs, or 33.4%, compared to the previous year.
“That doesn’t make up for what we lost during the pandemic,” said New Mexico Restaurant Association CEO Carol Wight. “So, restaurants are still struggling with, um, fewer employees than before.”

Trade, transportation, and utilities reported an increase of 6,400 jobs or 4.8%. Within the industry, retail trade was up 4,800 jobs, or 5.4%; transportation, warehousing, and utilities were up 1,200 jobs or 4.8%; and wholesale trade was up 400 jobs or 2.1%.

Mining and construction employment rose by 5,000 jobs or 7.8%. Most gains were within the construction industry, which grew by 3,600 jobs, or 7.8%. Mining employment was up 1,400 jobs, or 7.9%, over the year. Professional and business services employment grew by 5,000 jobs or 4.6%.

Employment in education and health services expanded by 2,200 jobs, or 1.6%. Within the education and health services industry, educational services were up 1,800 jobs, or 9.0%, and health care and social assistance were up 400 jobs or 0.3%.

Employment in manufacturing was up 2,000 jobs or 7.4%. Within this industry, durable goods manufacturing employment was up 1,300 jobs, or 8.8%, over the year. Non-durable goods manufacturing was up 700 jobs or 5.8%. Miscellaneous other services employment increased by 600 jobs or 2.3%. Financial activities were down 600 jobs or 1.8%. Information was down 100 jobs or 1.0%. Within the public sector, employment in local government was up 4,500 jobs or 4.9%.

Dr. White said because of New Mexico’s workforce structure and labor force structure, the state doesn’t fire as many workers as most of the rest of the country as they have a higher number of people who work in government-related occupations and said but bringing people on has been the issue. “We fire slower, but we hire slower. And that means our recovery takes longer than other parts of the country,” said White.

Within local government, local government education was up 2,500 jobs, or 5.2% and local government excluding education were up 2,000 jobs or 4.6%. The state government was up 1,600 jobs or 2.9%. Within state government employment, state government education added 2,100 jobs, representing an increase of 8.9%. State government excluding education was down 500 jobs or 1.6%. The federal government reported a loss of 500 jobs, or 1.7%, from its employment level in February 2021.

the problem is finding people to fill those positions. so many companies still have plenty of help-wanted signs hanging outside of their establishments. Several people have left the workforce, relying on subsidies like increased food benefits and programs to help pay for utilities, but speaking to trend the restaurant association says things are coming back but not at the pace they would like.

“Slowly but slowly, you know, it’s really, it’s not coming back as fast as it should with people still on unemployment. We should have those people employed.” said, Wight.

Further analysis will be provided in the Labor Market Review scheduled for release on April 1.