New claims for benefits from New Mexico’s unemployment insurance program have flattened in May to about 8,000 applications per week.
The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions received 7,948 new claims the week ending May 16, a decrease of 76 claims from the prior week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The number of claims from self-employed workers, through a federal pandemic-related stimulus program, dropped to 3,256 for the week ending May 16 from 4,714 the prior week, Labor Department statistics show.
Weekly unemployment applications have declined significantly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in late March, when the number reached a high of nearly 32,000 as businesses shut down and the first waves of workers were laid off. But new claims remain more than 10 times the normal average before the shutdown.
Almost 173,000 New Mexico workers — including many who are self-employed — have applied for unemployment benefits amid the pandemic.
“Yes, the number of new claims is decreasing in New Mexico and roughly at the same pace as the rest of the country, but they are still going up each week,” said Jeffrey Mitchell, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of New Mexico. “... You could argue that the reason the new claims [are] decreasing is only that so many people in vulnerable industries have already been laid off.”
The unemployment rate in New Mexico for the week ending May 9 was 12.59 percent, the most recent data available. The nation’s highest unemployment rates that week were in Nevada (23.5 percent), Michigan (22.6 percent), Washington (22.1 percent), Rhode Island (19.9 percent) and New York (19.3 percent).
Mitchell said New Mexico’s lower rate compared to those states is “remarkable” because of the large number of jobs in the hospitality sector, which has taken a huge hit.
“However, we have one of the highest percent jobs in government, which thus far have been less hard hit,” Mitchell said.
Many who were able to retain their jobs also have paid a price during the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in a survey released Wednesday that 48 percent of those who responded said they or another adult in their household had gotten a pay cut. And 39 percent said they believe they or a household member would lose employment income in the next four weeks.
In Santa Fe County, 12,449 people applied for regular unemployment benefits from March 21 to May 9. The county peaked at 2,692 claimants the week ending March 28 and dropped to 733 claimants the week ending May 9, according to the Department of Workforce Solutions.
Bernalillo, Doña Ana, San Juan and Sandoval counties were the only other New Mexico counties that have had more than 1,000 claims in a week.