ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — New Mexico has the worst unemployment rate in the nation, according to figures released Monday by state and federal labor officials.
January's jobless rate of 6.7 percent remained unchanged from the previous month, but that's still higher than the 6.5 percent recorded a year ago.
Nationally, the rate increased slightly to 4.8 percent despite an uptick in hiring in January as employers added 238,000 jobs.
The employment outlook has added fuel to a fiery debate in the New Mexico Legislature, where Democrats have blasted the Martinez administration over the stagnant economy. With less than a week remaining to shore up a significant budget shortfall, they say they have little choice but to push $350 million in various tax and fee increases.
Much of the problem stems from the downturn in the oil and gas industry, which contributes one of the largest chunks of the state revenue used to fund government programs.
The Martinez administration said Monday that New Mexico is too reliant on the oil and gas industry and the federal government.
Ben Cloutier, a spokesman for the state Economic Development Department, said lawmakers should be focused on legislation that creates a more business-friendly environment in New Mexico.