2012 to 2013: Not appreciably different

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By Harold Morgan

The newest numbers reporting changes in the New Mexico economy start with 5,000, drop to 1,000, jump to 3,000 and return to 1,000.
The things that changed come with six or seven digits, meaning that the changes aren’t much. We know that, you say. The changes are positive, which is something.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released the figures Feb. 28. The report provides the annual averages for 2012 and 2013 of the employment status of the civilian non-institutional population 16 years of age and over. This group is what we consider when talking about employment. Under 16 doesn’t count.
Non-institutional means not in jail or some other institution. Civilian means non-military, which leaves out more New Mexicans than we might think. One Internet source indicated 13,000 service personnel in the state.
The big number — that 5,000 — is the change in the potential working population from 2012 to 2013. It grew from 1.59 million to 1.595 million. Our population grew by a smaller figure — 1,747 — during the year to become 2,083,540 in July 2013, says the Census Bureau. The numbers come from different sources, so speculating on the reason for the difference between population and worker group growth likely is just that — peculation.
My hunch is that newcomers to the state’s worker pool are young, products of our public schools (shudder).
The second number — the 1,000 — is civilian labor force growth to 926,000 in 2013 from 925,000 in 2012. Being a member of the labor force means working or looking for work.
The arithmetic, then, leads quickly to the conclusion that a mere 20 percent of those potentially available for work got it in gear and expressed interest in work. Note that these are net figures. A lot of people joined the labor force between 2012 and 2013. A lot dropped out. The difference became labor force growth of 1,000.
The number of people employed increased by 3,000 during the period to 863,000. The percentage increase is tiny — 0.35 percent — but the number being 2,000 more than the labor force growth says that some people in the labor force found jobs during the year. Good. And indeed, the number of unemployed dropped by 1,000 (the fourth number) to 64,000. The unemployment rate dropped a bit, too, from 7.1 percent in 2012 to 6.9 percent in 2013.
All in all, what the BLS said about the unemployment rate in 25 states — “not appreciably different” from 2012 — applies to our job picture.
Having population figures and employment numbers allowed the BLS to combine the two and produce an employment-to-population ratio for each state and region.
New Mexico’s ratio is 54.1, good for 46th nationally. That is, those employed here are 54.1 percent of the population. We are followed by such stalwarts as Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and West Virginia, Colorado shows well at 63.2, but far behind the leaders North Dakota and Nebraska. Utah had the biggest increase, moving up 1.4 points for a 2013 ratio of 65.6. Our ratio did not change during the period.
The E2P ratio and its cousin, labor force participation, roughly measure the value of work in the state. As it impacts the economy, the E2P ratio has nothing to do with “dependence on government,” or any other of the whiney clichés of economic policy thinking.
Potential prosperity confronts a circular problem. People don’t work, at least not in the regular economy. But people are leaving (it’s that negative net domestic migration), so even if “jobs are created,” somehow, no one is around to fill them, especially in rural areas.
What to do? Lea County created a nuclear sector, a reason to work.