Economic Momentum Continues to Build Across New Mexico

March 7, 2019

The New Mexico labor force is growing and unemployment is dropping, according to N.M. Department of Workforce Solutions (NMDWS) data. Over-the-year job growth from December 2017 to December 2018 was 33% faster than the country as a whole (2.4% versus 1.8%). During that time, New Mexico was also sixth in the nation for our drop in the unemployment rate (0.7%).

A recent article in Albuquerque Business First highlighted some of these trends:

New Mexico fell below 5 percent unemployment in 2018, as the labor force grew and employment increased.

It’s the first time unemployment has fallen that low since the 2008 recession.

As economic growth began returning to the state, some counties saw higher wages and more hiring than others, which presented a growth opportunity for businesses in the area.

“It’s certainly a vigorous economy right now, and it’s continuing to grow,” said Steve Vierck, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corp. of Lea County, based in Hobbs. “You can see that manifested in the job market.”

Thousands of jobs in energy production and mining were added last year, NMDWS data show. Oil and gas production has surged recently in New Mexico, making our state one of the largest energy producers in the nation.

Eddy and Lea counties, located in the southeast corner of the state, have particularly benefited and are leading the state in economic growth. Unemployment has dropped to 3.2% in Eddy County and to 3.8% in Lea County, well below the state average:

“Most of that is connected to what’s happening in the oil and natural gas side, particularly oil right now,” Vierck said. “We moved up within the last two months into the third leading oil producing county in the whole country.”

Lea and Eddy County lie in the Permian Basin, one of the biggest oil reserves in the world, which contributed to record-breaking oil and gas revenue for the state last year. “Production has tripled, I mean literally tripled, in five years,” Vierck said.

The benefits of the energy development have carried over to other industries. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, New Mexico ranked 11th among states with 7.3% construction job growth last year. Peter Brill, president of Sarcon Construction, a large construction company in New Mexico, attributed this to the increased oil and gas activity.

The leisure and hospitality industry also grew in 2018, adding 8,400 jobs. Many of these jobs are linked to tourism in our state, which continues to increase. Last year, tourism provided $6.6 billion in direct visitor spending.

It’s not just natural resources, construction, and tourism. From startups a like robotics company in Albuquerque and a video-game developer in downtown Las Cruces, to household names like Facebook and Netflix, to our growing agriculture industry: Economic momentum continues to build across New Mexico.