Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

New Mexico still has a lot of ground to cover in the state’s economic recovery from the COVID pandemic. In a recent study released by Wallethub, New Mexico ranks 45th among states for economic recovery since the pandemic started. This rank is on par with many other blue states that have taken a much more cautious approach to ease restrictions as new COVID variants continue to rage amongst the unvaccinated.

“Blue states had a worse recovery from unemployment claims last week than red states, which rank 23 on average,” WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said. “The lower the number of the ranking, the bigger the state’s recovery was.”

Many Republican-led states ended unemployment benefits far earlier than their Democratic counterparts. Without the unemployment benefits that many enjoyed during the pandemic, many were forced to seek out work.

“The expiration of extra unemployment benefits should help to reduce unemployment. Some people were making more money while unemployed than they did when they were employed, but that will no longer be the case. Therefore, those people will have more of an incentive to seek out employment to make up for the drop in income,” Gonzalez said. “Currently, the U.S. has more job openings than unemployed people.”

Last week the state labor department reported tens of thousands of jobs openings were posted online and the department was working to find creative ways to connect workers with employers to fill those vacancies. New Mexico has 57 percent fewer unemployment claims for the first week in October as it did for the same week in 2020.

According to Wallethub, 18 states had already recovered to lower unemployment levels than before the pandemic started, including a host of red and blue states.

“We should not be too worried about the recent rise in unemployment claims, as they are on a sharp downward trend overall. The peak was 6.1 million claims nationwide in a single week in March 2020, and we’ve brought that number down to 352,000 as of the week of September 25, 2021,” Gonzalez said. “The most recent number of weekly unemployment claims is comparable to the amount we had in early October 2013. However, it is still around 150,000 above the record low we saw at the beginning of 2020.”

The U.S. economy lost 22.4 million jobs due to the pandemic. The recovery has been slower than many would have hoped, but according to recent data released by Wallethub, the progress has been steady. Since the worst part of the pandemic, the U.S. economy has created 17.4 million jobs. To put that into perspective, since the Great Recession, 22.7 million jobs have been created.

New Mexico also ranks 48th for states who are recovering their unemployment claims the quickest since the beginning of the pandemic.