COVID-19, an aging population and people moving out of state were some factors officials believed were to blame for a shrinking workforce in the state.
New Mexico’s labor force participation rate (LFPR) was the fifth lowest in the United States in 2021, read a study conducted by the State’s Department of Workforce Solutions (DWS).
New Mexico’s LFPR was 57 percent last year, five points lower than the national average of 62 percent. For nearly 50 years New Mexico’s LFPR was less than the national average, the study cited.
Rachel Moskowitz, DWS bureau chief, said New Mexico reached its peak labor rate in 1990 and 1994 at 64 percent.
“New Mexico’s participation rate has fallen faster than the national average,” she wrote in the study.
“The difference became especially pronounced starting in 2011 when New Mexico’s LFPR dropped to 58.4 percent, 5.7 percentage points lower than the U.S. rate of 64.1 percent.”
According to the DWS study, working men aged 25 to 34 declined nearly 8 percent in New Mexico from 1999 to 2021.
The LFPR for New Mexico women ages 25 to 44 fell nearly 4 percent and LPFR for disabled citizens age 18 to 44 fell nearly 3 percent from 1999 to 2021, the DWS study cited.
Carlsbad Department of Development (CDOD) Marketing Director Jeff Campbell said the worker shortage impacted Eddy County businesses along with the county’s unemployment rate.
He said CDOD, the City of Carlsbad and Eddy County try to recruit national retailers and restaurants along with potential employees to live and work in Carlsbad.
“After COVID-19 we’ve seen a big shift in the workforce. It’s been kind of a crazy time that we’re still dealing with,” he said.
In May, Eddy County had one of the lowest unemployment rates in New Mexico, per DWS data, at 3.6 percent.
Los Alamos County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 1.9 percent followed by Union County at 2.6 percent.
New Mexico’s overall unemployment rate was 5.1 percent in May, according to DWS.
Campbell said CDOD worked closely with DWS to find employment for those seeking it.
“We want to find out where the people are. We know people are still out there. DWS has been trying to put together different educational programs to show people that they have certain funding that maybe available for businesses that are trying to train employees,” he said.
Campbell said CDOD and the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce host frequent job fairs for potential employers and employees.
The labor shortage and low unemployment did not hurt staffing for a national supermarket chain located in Carlsbad.
Joey Marcades, spokesperson for Lubbock based United Supermarkets, owners of Albertsons Market, said most New Mexico locations have plenty of staff.
He said United Supermarkets was always hiring and offered competitive pay, benefits and other incentives, like grocery discounts and flexible scheduling.
“We believe our family-like culture and community involvement offers an incentive all on its own,” Marcades said. “Several of our senior leadership team members started sacking groceries for the company when they were teenagers.”