FARMINGTON — The area's unemployment rate dropped a full percentage point in the past year to a seasonally adjusted 6.4 percent in October because of recent private-sector growth.

The October unemployment rate was down from 7.4 percent a year earlier, and unchanged from 6.4 percent in September.

In October, total nonfarm employment in San Juan County grew by 300 jobs. Private firms added 500 jobs, while the public sector declined by 200 jobs, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions said Monday.

The numbers follow a recent trend of a shrinking labor force. In that scenario, the unemployment rate can decline even as the number of jobs also drop.

For the year, the local labor force lost 1,500 jobs, or 3 percent of the workforce. All of the job losses came from the service industry, which lost 1,000 jobs, and government, which lost an additional 500 jobs.

Sally Burbridge, chairwoman of Four Corners Economic Development, said businesses are waiting for action from the federal government.

"I really think a lot of folks are still holding on to see what happens with the national-level fiscal cliff issue, and I think that's affecting a lot of folks' decisions," she said.

The Farmington area also faces continued malaise in the natural gas industry, a bedrock of the local employment base, and the prospect of a partial shutdown at Four Corners Power Plant by the end of the year that will cost jobs.

Burbridge said the economic development group is pushing to attract and retain companies from a variety of industries.


For years, local leaders have pushed to reduce the area's reliance on the lucrative but volatile energy sector.

"We've got to stay the course, because it's all about diversifying and really not holding all our eggs in one basket," she said.

The number of unemployed continues to out pace job openings around New Mexico, the Department of Workforce Solutions said.

Jobs expected to continue to grow include registered nurses, elementary and middle school special education and vocational teachers, truck drivers, roustabouts, interpreters and translators and riggers.

Statewide, the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent in October, down from 6.4 percent in September and 7.2 percent a year ago. The national unemployment rate was 7.9 percent in October.