The unemployment rate in Santa Fe County in October was in the same league as in oil boom Lea and Eddy counties and the state’s richest county, Los Alamos.
Santa Fe County had a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.7 percent, while Lea County clocked in at 3.8 percent and Eddy and Los Alamos counties each recorded 3.1 percent, according to a Tuesday release from the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.
The Santa Fe unemployment rate has slowly drifted downward from 4.3 percent in December 2018 to 4 percent in September before the drop to 3.7 percent in October. Workforce Solutions did not have an immediate explanation for the September to October drop, spokeswoman Stacy Johnston said.
Statewide, unemployment has inched down in the past year from 5 percent in October 2018 to 4.9 percent in September to 4.8 percent in October, Workforce Solutions reported.
But New Mexico ranks No. 46 in the country with one of the lowest employment rates, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics records.
In contrast, construction jobs continue to soar in New Mexico with the state ranking No. 2 in the country with an 11.2 percent construction growth rate, or 5,300 new jobs since October 2018. New Mexico also ranked No. 5 with 900 new jobs, or 1.8 percent growth from September to October, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.
Construction job growth is almost entirely focused on Lea and Eddy counties and the oil and natural gas boom surrounding Carlsbad and Hobbs, according the Workforce Solutions statistics.
New Mexico construction job growth by percentage ranked No. 3 in September, No. 4 in August, No. 6 in July and No. 8 in June, according to Associated General Contractors of America’s analysis of U.S. Department of Labor statistics.
Construction jobs make up nearly 30 percent of the 17,800 new nonagricultural jobs created in the state since October 2018, but the unemployment rate would barely change without the construction boom, said Matías Fontenla, associate professor of economics at the University of New Mexico.
Leisure and hospitality employment added 5,400 jobs across New Mexico, a 5.5 percent increase. Local government across the state grew by 1,900 jobs, or 1.8 percent.
Educational services was the big loser in October, dropping 1,700 jobs, falling 7.9 percent.