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Grant County unemployment rate drops sharply

By Jim Owen

State officials have reported a significant decrease in the unemployment rate across most of southwest New Mexico.

In Grant County, 708 residents (out of a labor force of 11,927) were jobless and actively seeking work in April, according to the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. That amounted to a 5.9 percent unemployment rate, down from 7.8 percent in March and 6.7 percent in April 2013.

It has been a number of years since the last time the county's rate fell below 6 percent. Grant County is tied with Hidalgo and Bernalillo counties for the 11th-highest percentage in the state. Luna County continues to top the list at 17.6 percent, though that is down from 19.2 percent in March and 20 percent in April 2013.

Hidalgo County's jobless figures were 5.7 percent (135 workers out of a labor force of 2,376) in April, 6.7 percent in March and 6.8 percent in April last year.

In Catron County, 79 of the 1,546 eligible workers had jobs last month. That 5.1 percent unemployment rate was less than the 7.2 percent in March and 5.8 percent in April 2013.

Sierra County's rate in April was 5.9 percent, with 330 out of a labor force of 5,573 seeking employment. It was 7.4 percent in March and 6.3 percent in April a year ago.

Statewide, April's 5.9 percent rate was down from 7.3 percent in March and 7.1 percent in April 2013. The national rate also was 5.9 percent last month, after reaching 6.8 percent in March and 7.1 percent in April 2013.

Official unemployment statistics fail to fully reveal the extent of joblessness. They do not include part-time employees, those who have given up looking for work and others. Only workers signed up with the department, and actively looking for jobs, are counted. Actual unemployment rates could be two to three times greater than the reported figures.

Among recent job listings for Grant County posted at indeed.com were multiple positions at Gila Regional Medical Center, ranging from security guard to Wellness Center supervisor. The state personnel office in Fort Bayard was looking for people to fill three positions, while two jobs were available at Wagner Equipment Co. Also hiring at last report were TMX Finance, Tractor Supply Co., Family Dollar, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, jobs in Silver City offer average pay of $23,455 per year. The median income of the town's households is $25,881. Officials updated the figures Wednesday.

The state Department of Workforce Solutions reported:

"The rate of over-the-year job growth, comparing April 2014 with April 2013, was negative .5 percent, representing a loss of 4,400 jobs. Six industries added employment, six industries lost jobs and one remained unchanged.

"The largest employment gains were reported in the financial activities sector, which added 2,200 jobs since April 2013. This sector has seen consistent growth since May 2012, and recent growth has been much higher than what has typically been reported for the sector.

"Retail trade remained buoyant, adding 1,400 jobs. Mining also had a strong performance, adding 1,300 jobs, though the growth rate in
this sector has been trending downward over the past two years. Education and health services; leisure and hospitality; and transportation, warehousing and utilities each added 200 jobs.

"Government employment registered a net loss of 2,800 jobs since April of last year, with most of these losses reported at the local and
federal levels. Of the remaining six private-sector industries, five recorded declining employment over the year.

"The professional and business services industry lost 2,100 jobs. Manufacturing employment declined by 2,000 jobs. Construction employment fell by 1,600 jobs. Miscellaneous other services reported no change compared to the same time last year."

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