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Numbers Game

In Brief

June 29, 2011, 1:00 am

Unemployment for the state continued to sink last month, with a reported level of 6.9 percent for May, according to the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. 

That’s down from 7.6 percent in April and far below the national average of 9.1 percent.

Because the state’s unemployment is officially less than 7.5 percent, New Mexicans lost an extra six months of federal Tier 4 unemployment benefits. For states above the 7.5 percent threshold, federal unemployment benefits extend to 99 weeks. In New Mexico, as of June 12, they slipped to 93 weeks. 

But researchers at the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of New Mexico say those numbers are artificially low, largely because people who can’t find work are giving up and dropping out of the labor force.

“The labor force doesn’t tend to move that much,” Jeff Mitchell, an economist with BBER, tells SFR. 

Tracy Shaleen, an economist with Workforce Solutions, says it’s possible that official figures don’t give a full picture of unemployment in New Mexico. But he argues that the numbers, which are derived from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a statewide voluntary survey and timed economic models, are as accurate and up-to-date as possible.

“If it’s incorrect in their view now, was it correct when [unemployment] was going up?” Shaleen asks. “Nothing has changed in our methodology.”


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