Lea County’s job market is tighter.
The N.M. Workforce Solutions Department released its latest unemployment numbers on Friday and Lea County’s market continues to see fewer unemployed.
In February, the county’s unemployment rate was 3.8 percent compared to 4.1 percent in January 2019.
A year ago, the county’s February unemployment rate was 4.3 percent.
At the same time, the number of people employed in Lea County has jumped by 2,000 when compared to a year ago. In February 2019, 29,828 people were working, according to the state. In February 2018, 27,715 people were working.
Much of the unemployment is tied directly to the oilfield, a benefit felt not just in Lea County. Lea County’s neighbor, Eddy County, had an unemployment rate of 3.1 percent in February 2019 and had 31,563 people working.
“I think these numbers are a reflection of the realistic approach we have taken with our natural resources,” Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb said on Friday. “We have seen new businesses in retail, in combination with that in the oil and gas industry. The continued investment into our area is producing a number of job opportunities for people.”
Lea County unemployment rate beats Chaves county (4.7 percent), Roosevelt County (4.4 percent) and Curry County
Lea County’s is also better than Albuquerque, Farmington, Santa Fe and Las Cruces.
Statewide, the unemployment rate is 5.1 percent. Lea County’s unemployment rate is also better than Albuquerque, Farmington, Santa Fe and Las Cruces.
Statewide, the department noted mining, which includes the oil and gas industry, grew by 2,300 jobs when comparing this time last year to February 2019.
The numbers also come on the heels of January, when Lea County led the state in a drop in unemployment.
“Lea County had the largest over-the-year decrease in unemployment rate of 0.6 percent and Socorro had the largest increase with 0.9 percent,” the state’s report noted.
In January 2019 the state had an unemployment rate of 4.1 percent but in January 2018, the county’s unemployment rate was 4.7 percent.
The January report also noted the number of jobs mining, which is mostly made of oil and gas, has been growing.
“I am pleased with the eventual outcome of the Legislature in the fact that nothing was passed that could hurt the oil and gas industry,” Cobb said. “I applaud our legislators, especially our group from Lea County and southeastern New Mexico, who represented us and for the hard work they did.”
The report states mining added 3,100 jobs, representing the largest percentage increase
“Gains in the industry have exceeded 3,000 jobs for the last 15 consecutive months (except November 2018), representing growth levels last seen in March 2012,” it stated.