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It's an ugly climate

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State keeps bad company, economically

By Harold Morgan

Nothing much, bad or good, seems to be happening in the New Mexico economy.
For the past few months the state has been bumping along.
The big bad exception is Las Cruces, which has dropped firmly back into recession and job loss. Maybe we’re ending the long slide.
The job creation index of the Gallup polling firm, released Aug. 19, shows New Mexico tied for 45 out of 51 with three states, California, the epitome of state policies gone wrong; the near bankrupt Rhode Island; and New Hampshire.
Ugly company. (See www.capiolreportnm.blogspot.com for an explanation of the Gallup survey.)
Our neighbors fare better, as is usual with state economic performance rankings.
Utah is 16 on the Gallup survey, which applies to the first half of 2011. Colorado is 28th. Arizona, one of the big foreclosure four, is 31.
Energy and commodity producing states dominate what Gallup calls “the 10 best state jobs markets.”
North Dakota, the leader, has been on the list since 2008 with Oklahoma, which borders New Mexico, and West Virginia.
The Northeastern finance states such as New York and Western states hit by housing dominate the bottom 10.
The curious thing about New Mexico’s bottom 10 status is that we are an energy producer and our housing, though down, is nowhere near the disaster of California and Arizona.
Falling outside Gallup’s two patterns raises the question of just what are New Mexico’s economic prospects.
For now there is little economic action.
In the July job report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the only statistically significant change between July 2010 and July 2011 is a 1.8 percentage point drop in the unemployment rate.
Fraught with flakiness, the unemployment rate matters little.
Sure, unemployment is down — by 18,100, or 22.5 percent, over the year. The labor force has shrunk by 20,800, or 2.2 percent, over the year. People did join the labor force during the year and start seeking employment.
But 20,800 more people than joined decided they would no longer be with the force.
A useful unemployment measure is the weekly number of new claims filed for unemployment compensation.
For the six weeks starting July 2, new claims by New Mexicans dropped from the previous year during four weeks and increased during two. With one exception the numbers were small.
During the week of August 6, claims increased by 69. Just three other states showed increased claims that week, more bad company.
Another decent economic measurement is the number of wage jobs.
Statewide, there were 804,100 wage jobs during July, seasonally adjusted.
That’s down 100 from June, certainly a rounding error, and up 2.7 percent, or 2,200, from July 2010, an insignificant change.
Among the sectors during the July-to-July year, manufacturing stayed even at around 28,800 jobs. Government dropped 1,600 jobs, and leisure and hospitality lost 1,000.
Professional and business services is up slightly since May to 93,700 jobs in July, but down 6,200, or 6.2 percent, since July 2010.
Education and health services offsets that drop with a 5.8 percent, 6,900 job increase, year-over-year.
An even 800,000 (not seasonally adjusted) New Mexicans had wage jobs during July, the Department of Workforce Services reported Aug. 25.
Albuquerque remained the metro black hole with 3,200 wage jobs gone during July and 2,200 for the year.  
Government was down 6,600 in Albuquerque, with nearly all the losses in education.
Las Cruces lost 300 jobs over the July-to-July year, as did Santa Fe. Farmington added 1,000 jobs.
Responses are appearing. The Association of Commerce and Industry proposes regulatory tinkering.
Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, Belen Democrat, with Senate Minority Leader Stu Ingle, R-Portales, has a Jobs Leadership Team.
I wish both efforts well.

Harold Morgan
© New Mexico News Services 2011