Economy bumping along

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By Harold Morgan

News, good, bad and of no significance, came in the latest job numbers from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and the state’s Department of Workforce Solutions.
The insignificance in the changes from January 2011 to January 2012 was both in terms of size—the changes being small—and statistics—the changes also being too small to matter.
For example, we added all of 300 people to the labor force between December and January, the BLS said, bringing the January labor force total to 920,800 on a seasonally unadjusted basis. The change is both small and statistically insignificant.
That the labor force grew, however slightly, was a switch, a bit of good news.
A piece of very nice news came from DWS. All four of the state’s metro areas added employment in January, year over year, something that so rare as to be almost forgotten. During 2011, only Santa Fe added jobs.
The four-county Albuquerque metro gained employment, up 1,892. (Note that employment is a slightly different concept from wage jobs. Confusing.) Santa Fe was up 1,496, with Farmington adding 1,207 (a healthy 2.4 percent jump). Las Cruces grew by 352.
The metros dominated the statewide employment growth of 6,062, providing 4,947 of the employees. The bad news is that 16 counties lost employment, from January 2011 to January 2012. Most losses were just a few—154 in Socorro County. Rio Arriba County was the loss leader with employment down 779 or 4.4 percent. January showed employment of 16,985 in Rio Arriba.
Lea County scored the employment good news with growth of 2,030 for a 7.7 percent increase. Now that’s healthy.
New Mexico’s recession, as measured by job losses, was even worse than we thought. Starting with March 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised job totals down. The reduction was two tenths of one percent for December 2011, about 1,600 jobs, in real numbers. To be sure, the figure is minor against 808,000, the newly revised wage job total for December. But that’s not how we think of things. We think of 1,600 jobs that were never there.
The biggest revision of the past four years was a 1.6 percent reduction in March 2009.
The revisions are done annually. The newest revisions “affect all not seasonally adjusted data from April 2010 forward,” the BLS says. One reason for checking things is that firms open and close all the time, making it hard to get an accurate job count. Other reasons are arcane, accessible only to job data nerds.
Revised job numbers give us a cleaner look at the recent past. The comparisons that follow will fall between December 2010 and December 2011 and will use numbers that are not seasonally adjusted.
All that said, New Mexico added 900 wage jobs during 2011, about one percent. Mining and logging, a small sector in terms of total and generally well-paid jobs, (22,300 in December) and with nearly all the jobs in mining and most of those in oil and gas extraction, led the state in percentage increase with a rousing 12.8 percent gain.
The 2,500 net new mining jobs were second only to the 4,300-job, 3.5 percent gain in education and health services, the second largest sector with 125,900 employees.
Wage jobs in government, the state’s largest sector, dipped below 200,000 with a 2,400-job loss, 1.2 percent, to 197,700. Government has almost half again the 136,300 jobs found in the trade sector, the state’s second largest.
Professional and business services, a large sector with 98,600 jobs and important because of good paying jobs, came through the revisions showing a 2,100-job, or 2.1 percent, loss for 2011.
The conclusion for now is that we’re bumping along the bottom, not yet up to bouncing.
(See www.capitolreportnm.blogspot.com for a further review of DWS January jobs report.)