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State unemployment numbers struggle during recovery


When Covid hit, New Mexico’s unemployment did not rise as high as the rest of the country, possibly partially due to an existing elevated rate. Unemployment has remained higher than national averages since the “lost decade” of employment resulting from the 2008 financial crisis.

As of March 2022, New Mexico unemployment has dipped below pre-pandemic levels (5.3 percent vs. 5.4 percent), while the U.S. is still slightly higher than pre-pandemic levels at 3.6 percent.

During the pandemic, New Mexico’s labor force, comprised of those working or seeking work, shrunk dramatically by over 28,000 people, according to the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business

and Economic Research. The New Mexico labor force participation rate is historically significantly lower than the rest of the U.S. and is currently 56 percent vs. the nation’s 62 percent.

Experts point to early retirements, lack of childcare amid uncertain school schedules, and a change in labor preferences as the main drivers of why people, disproportionately women, exited the workforce

and have not returned.

New Mexico has recovered 98 percent of the jobs lost during the pandemic. With many employees exiting the labor force altogether and companies struggling to fill payrolls, some consider New Mexico

at near-full employment. While unemployment remains elevated, labor shortages, especially for low-skilled jobs, are driving up wages. As jobs recover with fewer people in the workforce, unemployment could fall below pre-pandemic levels. Lingering high unemployment could point to a skills-jobs mismatch where the New Mexico workforce does not have skills for the industries or types of jobs seeking workers.

Visit www.nmlegis.gov/Entity/LFC/Default.

The Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) is chaired by state Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-McKinley, San Juan, who is chair of the New Mexico House of Representatives Appropriations and Finance Committee. The vice chair is state Sen. George Muñoz, D-McKinley, San Juan, McKinley, who is chair of the state Senate Finance Committee. The LFC’s long-time director is David Abbey.