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Hospitality Only Bright Spot in Jobs Growth for Santa Fe, New Mexico

By Bob Quick, The Santa Fe New MexicanMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jan. 29, 2010--The good news is that Santa Fe showed an increase of 200 jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector of the local economy in December compared with the previous month.

That's apparently because there was more snow on the ground and more skiers hitting the slopes in Santa Fe, meaning more jobs in hotels and restaurants, according to the state Department of Workforce Solutions.

Most other industry sectors, meanwhile, created few if any jobs in Santa Fe, raising the unemployment rate for December to 7.2 percent, up from 6.8 percent in November. A year ago Santa Fe had an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent.

"Santa Fe has been suffering a while," said Mark Boyd, an economist with the state agency. "The numbers are really bad."

They may be even worse after some new, benchmark numbers dealing with job losses are released next month.

"People may be shocked by how bad the economy was and how many jobs were lost," Boyd said. "It's then we'll start to see new trends emerge."

"The Santa Fe job market has been weak for about two years, but the recent data have been especially disappointing," the study stated. "Previously job growth alternated between positive and negative territory, mostly staying close to the zero line. Employment totals have, however, taken a sharp turn for the worse since earlier in the year."

Even local government, which is usually a stable part of the government sector, reported a decrease of 100 jobs in December after previously showing increases.

Educational and health services, which has been the strongest sector, lost 300 jobs over the year.

What is especially surprising is that sectors that have up to now consistently added jobs have been losing them. "When everything else is weak, we could rely on educational and health services and local government," Boyd said. "Now both are weak."

Other losing sectors were construction, down 1,300 jobs from a year ago; professional and business services, off 800 jobs; retail trade, a decline of 600 jobs; and 200 jobs lost in both information and wholesale trades.

Local government includes workers at tribal gaming operations, which apparently are cutting jobs as a result of fewer players gambling because of the recession.

The new Santa Claran Hotel in Espanola should make some difference in the regional job picture. The hotel, adjacent to the Santa Claran Casino, employs 50 employees full time and another 10 on a part-time basis, said Dennis Pendergast, general manager of hotel operations.

The casino, which has been open for some time, provides jobs to 250 people full and part time, Pendergast said.

New Mexico's job-loss trend will take a while to overcome.

"We're in a recovery," Boyd said, "but we've lost so many jobs that's it's going to take years to get them back."

He added: "The unemployment rate will probably continue on an upward trend before it levels off."

On the state level, New Mexico's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.3 percent in December, a significant increase from 7.8 percent in November and 4.7 percent a year ago.

The job growth for the period was a negative 3.1 percent, meaning a loss of 25,900 jobs.

Before the December decline, there had been three good months, a news release stated.

"Those three good months and one not-so-good month are an improvement from the consistently dismal results posted previously," the release said.

In both Santa Fe and statewide, economists are expecting a minor positive turn in the job market with the 2010 Census starting later in the year and lasting for a few months.

Contact Bob Quick at 986-3011 or


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