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County's Jobless Rate Soared in June

By Jim Owen

Grant County experienced a major increase in unemployment in June, according to the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.

There were 907 people out of a work force of 11,901 (7.6 percent) actively looking for jobs during the month, up from 696 of 12,003 (5.8 percent) in May. The county's jobless rate in June 2013 was 7.9 percent, when 956 people were seeking employment.

In May, the unemployment rate was the lowest it had been in years. The high and low rates during the past decade have been 13.1 percent in July 2009, following layoffs at area copper mines; and 3.2 percent in December 2006 and May 2007.

Analysts predict that the number of jobs in the county will increase 35.1 percent, slightly less than the national average of 36.1 percent, during the next decade.

According to online job postings, several Silver City-area companies are hiring workers. Multiple positions were open, at last report, at Gila Regional Medical Center and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. Among others seeking to hire people were the state personnel office, Wagner Equipment Co., Tractor Supply Co. and Aaron's Inc.

Grant County's unemployment rate in June was 12th highest in the state, with Luna County (at 14.6 percent) topping the list. Ninety-two residents (5.6 percent of the labor force) reportedly were looking for jobs in Catron County, where the rate was 4.6 percent in May and 6.4 percent in June 2013.

In Hidalgo County, 173 people (6.4 percent of the work force) were seeking employment in June. That was down from 5.4 percent in May and 6.8 percent a year ago. In Sierra County, the rate of 6.1 percent last month was up from 5.5 percent in May. Dona Ana (8 percent) and Socorro (6.1 percent) also had higher rates than during the previous month.

Statewide, the jobless rate rose from 5.9 percent in May to 7.3 percent in June. It was 7.6 percent in June 2013. Nationwide rates were 6.3 percent last month, 6.1 percent in May and 7.8 percent in June 2013.

The percentages include only people who have registered at unemployment offices. Among residents who are not counted are those looking for work on their own, those who have given up searching, part-time employees and the under-employed.

The rate of job growth in New Mexico during the past year has been three-tenths of 1 percent, representing an increase of 2,500 positions.

The department reported:

"Gains in six industries more than offset losses in seven others, pushing growth into positive territory for the first time in nine months. The private-sector growth was nearly 1 percent, while government was down 1.7 percent.

"Education and health services led all industries with an increase of 3,500 jobs, a sharp uptick from May's gain and likely due in part to seasonal variability. Job growth continued to surge in financial activities, up 1,700; and mining, up 1,500 (from 26,100 to 27,600). The two industries posted the largest percentage gains over the year.

"Leisure and hospitality also added 1,500 jobs, while retail trade (up 900) and transportation, warehousing and utilities (up 500) contributed smaller increases.

"Government employment fell by 3,200 from a year earlier, with losses at all three component levels: federal, state and local. Also reporting losses were manufacturing, down 2,000 jobs; miscellaneous other services, down 600; construction, down 500; professional and business services, down 400; information, down 300; and wholesale trade, down 100."

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