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Albuquerque scores the jobs for January-to-January year

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By Harold Morgan

Randomly touring the state’s job numbers is worthy if only for the ritual. Trend reminders lurk—Albuquerque’s apparent economic dominance reappearing and rural problems. Another element is the Legislature’s cut-and-paste budget that kicks the can of real change so far down the road that it produces just a distant plink as it bounces.
Over the month from December 2016 to January 2017, the state lost 19,400 jobs, 1,300 more than the 18,100 dropped from December 2015 to January 2016. For the year just past, the state’s 900-job increase represents a slight reversal from the 1,800 jobs lost between January 2015 and January 2016.
The January 2016 to January 2017 net job performance for New Mexico’s four metro areas was 2,300 more wage jobs. Albuquerque and Las Cruces respectively added 3,800 and 800 jobs. Farmington lost 1,800 and Santa Fe, 500. The state added a net of 900 jobs, meaning that the 26 rural counties lost 1,400 jobs (2,300 minus 900 = 1,400).
The 6.7 percent January unemployment rate that got the headlines was seasonally adjusted. The unadjusted January rate was 7 percent. The February rate increased to 6.8 percent, again seasonally adjusted.
The four-county metro Albuquerque area more than dominated employment growth for the January-to-January year. (Employment and wage job figures are produced by different methods.)
Albuquerque has about 46 percent of both the labor force and employment. About 8,900 people joined the labor force across the state during the year. Nearly 82 percent of that growth, or 7,400 people, came in Albuquerque. Employment found 88 percent of those new to the labor force. (Note: These are net figures; people enter and leave the labor force and enter and leave employment.) What seems remarkable is that all the employment gain came in Albuquerque, which added 6,407 more people. Thus, the rest of the state dropped 167 jobs.
Reviewing 2016 surfaces the annual job number shuffle called “benchmarking.” The process takes figures collected each quarter for employees covered by unemployment insurance and plugs them into numbers produced monthly by the current employment statistics program. People possibly not covered by unemployment are also added to the estimates, including workers in industries such as insurance sales, daycare, private schools, hospitals, and religious organizations.
For the state, changes jumped the 2016 job total average monthly increase to 2,600, or 0.3 percent, with decreases in May, June and July and greater increases starting in October. The change was trivial from the previously estimated (unbenchmarked) 2016 increase of 2,400.
Revised average employment in mining was 19,700, up 600 jobs, or 3.1 percent. Employment and health services dropped 1,300 to 138,700, or 0.9 percent.
Government got the biggest revision increase in Albuquerque, an additional 1,600 jobs, or 2 percent. Some of those jobs might have come from Santa Fe which saw its zero growth in state government jobs become a 700-job loss, due, DWS said, to a “more accurate reallocation of state government locations to other areas.”
Impressions in Farmington were right that 2016 was even less stellar than the original reports suggested. The benchmark revisions pulled monthly average employment down 2,300 jobs to 48,800 from 51,100. January wage jobs dropped 600 with February 1,200 fewer. The revisions were 2,800 per month starting in September except for 3,000 in November.
Maybe it’s fantasy to close on a positive note. But here it is. The Permian Basin is “the most popular place on the planet to drill for oil.” The comment came in a Wall Street Journal “Heard on the Street” column discussing Marathon Oil spending “more than $1 billion on Permian acreage.” No idea what that might mean for employment or state finances, but I’ll take it.