High unemployment rate in Farmington signals a changing workforce

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FARMINGTON, N.M. – New Mexico has led the nation with some of the highest unemployment rates in the country, and although those numbers have improved since the pandemic, the state is not bouncing back as quickly as other states are.

Farmington has an unemployment rate of 5.4%, according to the New Mexico Department of Work Force Solutions. San Juan County Manager, Mike Stark says the County’s Public Safety Department has felt the effects of that statistic.

“Our adult detention center we have a vacancy rate of 22%, our sheriff’s office is 17%, communications authority- 911 dispatch is 15% and those are significant in being able to fill these critical roles our citizens rely on,” said Stark.

There is no shortage of jobs, but what of people wanting to fill them?

“The fact that we are still coming off COVID and some of the challenges that folks have experienced with that and returning to the work force. We had a large number of retirements, we also had a lot of folks that have looked for new opportunities in our community,” said Stark.

All this points towards a workforce that has shifted after the pandemic, said Warren Unsicker, director of Economic Development for the City of Farmington.

“Everyone is grappling with this extensile crisis of how to get people back to work, and I think a lot of it comes down to people are being more choosey with what they are willing to take,” said Unsicker.

There is more emphasis on other values.

“People are taking their skills and their passions and creating their own jobs, and that’s where I think we seen a bright spot in Farmington, people taking their destiny in their own hands,” said Unsicker.

Although Farmington has the highest metropolitan unemployment rate in the state, that number has been improving and Unsicker said he is hopeful that the city will make a full recovery.

As for filling critical public safety jobs, San Juan County is holding a job fair May 4 from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at the McGee Park Convention & Multiuse Centers.