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Income: Lagging peer states

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By Harold Morgan

Staying the slow-growth course was the New Mexico population and income story for 2011. A guess is that slowness will be the 2012 story, too, what with loss of 1,500 jobs in May after nine months of ever so slight year-over-year gains.
The New Mexico economic pattern is performance better than some states but worse than what might be called our peers — Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma. Real gross domestic product is an example. Real GDP, says the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, is income plus production costs.
During 2011, New Mexico GDP grew 0.2 percent, as best as I can see from the computer map. That’s 41st nationally, but one-fifth the performance of the next lowest peer state, Oklahoma.
When it comes to low incomes, we are competitive with our peers. In this contest, Texas has the advantage being a large state with small counties. During 2010 Texas placed 18 counties among the 250 lowest per capita income counties out of 3,113 counties in the nation. New Mexico tied Arizona with three counties among the low 250, followed by Colorado with four and Utah with six. Crowley County, Colorado, east of Pueblo, claimed the nation’s lowest income with $16,299 per capita.
Three New Mexico counties made the low 250 for 2010, “led” by McKinley County with a $24,130 per capita income that ranked 2,972 nationally or 141 spots above the bottom. Per capita income in McKinley County was 60.4 percent of the national average. The other two counties were Guadalupe (rank 2,951, income $24,438) and Union (rank 2,937, income $24,552).
Sticking with the formula, our percentage of population change ranked 20th nationally with a 0.8 percent increase between 2010 and 2011. Of our peers, Oklahoma was close, ranking 18th. Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Utah made the top 10.
Of the percentage change in per capita income, only the oil states of Oklahoma at third and Texas at ninth, made the top 10. We were last among the peer group at 41st.
But wait, you say, New Mexico is an oil state, too. Not enough, it seems.
The nation’s per capita income was $41,663 in 2011. North Dakota’s per capita income growth of 6.7 percent led the nation in 2011. That state’s 2011 per capita income, $45,747, jumped a spot to rank ninth nationally.
New Mexico’s $34,575 per capita income for 2011 ranked 43rd nationally, between two southern “A” states, Alabama and Arkansas. New Mexico’s 2011 income barely beat the 2008 figure of $33,490. It’s hard to feel like buying stuff when your income is down.
To consider county per capita incomes, again we must switch back to 2010, the most recent year for which county figures are available. Two counties continue leading the income race — Los Alamos at $61,539 (all those physicists and other scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory) and Santa Fe at $43,389.
Bernalillo used to be the only other county with capita earnings among the state’s highest. It’s no more the northern big three and the rest.
Now seven counties beat the statewide earnings, a transformation. Bernalillo County’s 2010 per capita income, $35,787, ranks sixth. The others are Eddy (third at $40,748); Harding (fourth at $39,248); Curry (fifth at $36,931); and Lea (seventh at $34,342).
For 2010, nine counties scattered across the state remained below the 2008 level of per capita income, providing another way of viewing the state’s economic non-performance of the past few years. They are Bernalillo, Chaves, DeBaca, Eddy, Lea, Luna, San Juan, Santa Fe and Valencia.
A positive glimmer comes from expansions by regional and national retailers such as Sprouts and Sports Authority. These guys bet on our future, not our past.
Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress