BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI The Albuquerque metro area's economy continued to lag behind other areas in the region in terms of job growth in February. The area added 3,200 jobs in the year that ended Feb. 29 for a 0.9 percent growth rate. But that was tied for last in terms of jobs growth for 10 metro areas in the region. Austin had a 4.2 percent growth rate, in Phoenix it was 3.5 percent, and in El Paso it was 3 percent, according to data Wednesday from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Albuquerque and the Oklahoma City area tied for the lowest growth rates. The good news for the Albuquerque area was that the job growth was widespread. Seven industry sectors gained jobs, and three lost them. And, 84 percent of the jobs gains were in the private sector. The construction sector grew by 2 percent, information was up by 3.8 percent and education and health care services increased by 3.9 percent. The area's jobless rate was 5.7 percent in February, down from 6.3 percent the year before. The number of people without jobs fell by 2,200, the BLS said. Manufacturing continued its decades-long slide, shedding 400 jobs, or 2.4 percent of its workforce. Two of New Mexico's other major metro areas gained jobs. Santa Fe added 1,200 jobs for a 2 percent growth rate, while Las Cruces grew by 400 jobs, or 0.6 percent. The other troubling news for the four-county Albuquerque metro area was that it has yet to recover all the jobs it lost during the recession. As of February, the area was still down 22,000 jobs from the peak of 401,500 jobs reached in December 2007. And, the area still doesn't have as many jobs as it did 10 years ago. In February 2006, the area had 387,200 jobs, compared to 379,500 as of this February. Dennis Domrzalski is news editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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