More Lea residents going to work
Lea County’s unemployment rate hit a five-year low last month, according to the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.
Not since April 2013 has the unemployment rate been 3.7 percent. That’s not the lowest ever, since the average for 2007 was 2.5 percent, but it’s a lot better than June 2016 when the unemployment rate was 10 percent.
April’s 3.7 percent unemployment in Lea County also compares favorably to the 4.4 percent in March and 6.4 percent in April 2017. Lea County also beat the state’s rate of 5.4 percent and edge out the national rate of 3.9 percent last month.
Oilfield expert Larry Scott, co-owner of Lynx Petroleum, took the news in stride.
“The oilfield is busy and that unemployment number does not surprise me at all,” he said. “I’m actually a bit surprised that it’s that high because I think everybody in Lea County that actually wants a job probably has one.”
The state’s employment watchdog agency reported the actual number of unemployed in Lea County was 1,051 in April, compared to a labor force of 28,217. In January, the unemployment rate was 5.0 percent with a labor force of 28,231 and 1,420 people jobless, showing a net change of 355 people finding jobs since January.
In the Hobbs News-Sun classifieds, there are on most Sunday more than 70 employers seeking to fill multiple positions, from retail to government to oilfield. Of those, anywhere from 15 to 20 of those jobs are listed as CDL positions.
The job hunt website Indeed.com on Tuesday listed 675 jobs available within 25 miles of downtown Hobbs, from restaurant servers and receptionists to mechanics and heavy equipment operators. Another job website, Monster.com, listed 634. Many of the available jobs listed are directly related to the oilfield, but most are food service, retail, delivery or clerical positions.
For most delivery jobs unrelated to the oilfield, such as package, pizza and postal delivery, no commercial driver’s license is required. Some jobs that do require a CDL offer paid training to obtain one.
G&L Trucking owner Greg Lopez said that CDL is important, but so is the ability to pass a drug test.
“We cannot find enought qualified drivers,” he said. “They may have a CDL, but they can’t pass the drug test. If we had 500 people move into town, I’d be willing to bet everybody would be able to get a truck driving job. I know at least 20 (jobs available) right now.”
While oil production and prices continue to rise, there are still some oilfield services not yet feeling the latest boom.
“I think the guys that are in business to serve the legacy production, the older wells, are still struggling a bit. I see a lot of pulling units, well servicing units, still stacked in the yards,” Scott said. “But if you’re in the business of drilling, completing, fracking or servicing one of these new horizontal completions, you’re busy.”
According to Workforce Solutions, the employment appear to be approving throughout New Mexico.
“New Mexico’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.4 percent in April 2018, down from 5.6 percent in March and 6.3 percent a year ago,” the agency reported in a release. “The national unemployment rate in April was 3.9 percent, down from 4.1 percent in March and 4.4 percent in April 2017.”
“You can look at the traffic in Hobbs,” Scott said, “and know there are a lot of people here that probably weren’t here two years ago.”