Employment figures begin to turn around

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Despite the progress, there’s still a long way to go

By The Staff

SANTA FE – New Mexico stopped the bleeding in its unemployment rate in November, according to the latest data from the state Economic Research and Analysis Bureau.

But the agency stopped short of an optimistic forecast.

According to the report released Wednesday, New Mexico’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in November 2009, unchanged from October’s revised rate, but up from 4.6 percent a year ago.

The national unemployment rate decreased to 10 percent.

For the state, the rate of over-the-year job growth, comparing November 2009 with November 2008, was negative 3 percent, representing a loss of 25,400 jobs. New Mexico’s ranking among the states was 22nd highest, as all 50 states reported declining year-over-year employment.

New Mexico may have reached a statistical low point in August from which a slow recovery can be staged, according to an announcement from the Department of Workforce Solutions.

Since August, the announcement stated, the employer survey has reported three consecutive months of seasonally adjusted increases in the total number of jobs. However, earlier losses are such that the state is still down more than 25,000 jobs on the year and it will be a number of years until employment reaches pre-recession levels again.

The recent decline in the number of jobs is the worst the state has seen in modern times, the department reported.

Meanwhile, the state’s unemployment rate, currently at a 21-year high, has risen sharply during 2009 and may be set for further increases. The rate is up significantly from a record low of 3.5 percent reached just two years ago.

Only four of the state’s 13 industries posted any job growth since last year, while nine others reported employment declines.

Among the areas gaining jobs, the department reported the following:

The largest gains continue to come from educational and health services, which were up 4,300 jobs on the year from strength in the health care component of the industry. Government also posted a year-over-year gain, adding 2,200 jobs. Most of the new government jobs are at the local level, but the federal level is also showing gains now that workers are preparing for Census 2010.

The information industry has added jobs, presumably from work on several major film productions continuing from previous months.

The miscellaneous other services category reported 700 additional jobs. Sectors experiences a decline included these:

Mining generated over-the-year gains until February, when job losses escalated and employment slipped below last year’s level. Layoffs continued for subsequent months, and the industry is now down 2,000 jobs on the year.

The construction industry reported 7,600 fewer jobs in November 2009 than in November 2008. The industry is going through a difficult period of adjustment following four years of growth that resulted in the creation of 14,000 new jobs.

The state also lost 4,000 manufacturing jobs over the last year, with reductions reported across the board.

Employment reports for retail trade continue to worsen, with a reported 8,600 fewer jobs in November than at the same time last year. The much smaller wholesale trade industry did not fare much better, reporting 900 fewer jobs.

The professional and business services industry, often considered a barometer for the rest of the economy, reported employment that was down by 6,700 jobs from last year. The transportation, warehousing and utilities industry lost 2,900 jobs, down 11.8 percent.

The financial activities industry also lost jobs, declining by 1,000 since last November.

Leisure and hospitality reported 800 fewer jobs than last year, with most of the declines coming in the accommodation and food services component.