By Jim Owen
The official unemployment rate in Grant County decreased significantly in May, according to a report the state Department of Workforce Solutions released Friday.
There were 696 people out of a work force of 12,003 (5.8 percent) actively looking for jobs, down from 708 of 11,897 (6 percent) in April. The county's jobless rate in May 2013 was 6.8 percent.
It has been years since the last time the rate fell below 6 percent. The county tied for 13th among the highest rates in the state, after having often ranked 10th or 11th in recent years. Luna County, at 16.3 percent, remains at the top of the list.
According to online job postings, the Town of Silver City is hiring a firefighter and emergency medical technician, a mechanic and a police officer. Open positions at Hidalgo Medical Services include care-team leader, chief dental officer, social worker, radiologic technologist, workforce-program specialist and custodian.
Several jobs are available at Gila Regional Medical Center, as well as at Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. Other employers who have posted openings include Wagner Equipment Co., Tractor Supply Co., Wells-Fargo, Family Dollar, Pizza Hut, McDonald's, Sonic Drive-In and Arby's.
The jobless rate dropped in May in Catron, Hidalgo and Sierra counties, as well. Seventy-three residents (4.6 percent of the labor force) reportedly were seeking employment in Catron County, where the rate was 5.1 percent in April and 5.4 percent in May 2013.
In Hidalgo County, 137 people (5.4 percent of the work force) were looking for jobs in May. That was down from 5.7 percent in April and 6.7 percent a year ago. In Sierra County, the rates were 5.5 percent last month, 5.9 percent in April and 6.1 percent in May 2013.
Statewide, 54,714 residents (5.9 percent of the labor force) were counted as unemployed in May. That was the same percentage as the previous month, but down from 6.6 percent a year ago.
The department reported that the number of jobs in the mining and logging industries in New Mexico increased by 100 from April to May to 27,200. That was 1,300 more than a year ago, though officials pointed out "the growth rate in this sector has been trending downward over the past two years."
The 6.1 unemployment rate nationwide in May was up from 5.9 percent in April, and down from 7.3 percent in May 2014.
Official jobless rates include only people who have registered at unemployment offices. They do not count residents who are looking for work on their own, those who have given up searching, part-time employees or the under-employed.
In its monthly report, the department noted that the number of jobs statewide declined by one-tenth of 1 percent between April 2013 and the same month this year. That represented a loss of 600 positions.
The report continued:
"Seven industries added employment, and six industries registered losses (during the 12-month period). The largest gains were in the financial activities and retail trade sectors, each of which added 2,000 jobs.
"The financial activities sector has seen consistent growth since May 2012, and recent growth has been much higher than that which typically has been reported for the sector. Retail trade continues to be buoyant, with employment gains in May matching those of March, which were the highest gains since February 2008.
"Education and health services continued to expand, adding 1,500 jobs, constituting its largest gain in 12 months. Leisure and hospitality reported a gain of 1,000 jobs. This industry has shown consistent growth since October 2010, apart from two months in the fourth quarter of 2013.
"Gains were also made in other services and transportation, warehousing and utilities. Government employment registered a net loss of 2,500 jobs since May of last year, with most of these losses reported at the local and federal levels.
"The professional and business services industry lost 2,100 jobs. Manufacturing, in its eighteenth month of decline, lost 1,700 jobs. Construction employment fell by 1,500 jobs."