Job growth forecast bleak in New Mexico

-A A +A
By Harold Morgan

Our four bigger cities didn’t make the grade. Neither did our smaller cities.
The grader was Sunset magazine. Passing the tests would have brought a place in Sunset’s group of 24 “Best Places to Live” in the West that is the magazine’s cover story for the February issue. “We’ve found the ideal city, town or neighborhood for you,” Sunset said proudly.
Albuquerque did get mentioned — as “the nearest major city” to Durango, Colo. Whoopie.
A small consolation for me is that Sunset’s city search started with “urban experts around the West.” Such people in my experience come with highly prescriptive notions of what is good (being walkable, whatever that means) and what is bad (cars).
Consolation aside, we’re not in the game, and that is bad. Nor is much expected to happen any time soon. That’s the tip of the forecasting iceberg from the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (bber.unm.edu).
Lee Reynis, BBER director, presented the forecast Jan. 16 at the annual outlook conference in Albuquerque. The forecast was titled, “New Mexico Economy: Recent Developments and Outlook.”
Overall, Reynis said, New Mexico and the lagging metro Albuquerque continue to pull out of the deepest and longest recession since the 1930s.
First the numbers. Wage job employment was expected to grow 1 percent in 2013 (final numbers are not yet available), then 1.4 percent this year and 1.6 percent in 2015 and 2016. The forecast 2013 growth is five times the 0.2 percent wage job increase between November 2012 and 2013, reported in December by the state Department of Workforce Solutions. DWS showed 1,700 jobs added to the November 2012 base of 811,400 jobs. BBER’s number and the DWS number come from different sources, Reynis said in an email.
The pre-recession job growth peak was 3.7 percent in 2006. The last time New Mexico might be said to have boomed came with three years of 4 percent plus growth from 1993 to 1995. Fun times then — industrial cranes were everywhere.
Albuquerque job growth will be about the same as the state, Reynis said.
Personal income growth statewide is expected to have been 1.8 percent last year and then more than 4 percent starting this year.
For real estate, Reynis used a publication of the Urban Land Institute, “Emerging Trends in Real Estate, 2014.” Albuquerque’s real estate outlook continues to drop relative to other metro areas. Out of 51 areas, Albuquerque’s prospects for 2014 place 46th. The report puts the Duke City’s 2013-2014 employment growth at 0.9 percent.
Arts and cultural industries, a key element in drawing visitors, provide strength, as do mining and extractive industries. Other positives are technology, tourism and transportation.
Elements holding New Mexico back include capital, financing, construction, the federal government, manufacturing and professional and technical services, a category where one finds science talent and lawyers.
The “challenges of distance and population density” got a commendable mention. This reality is seldom acknowledged. About half of us concentrate in the north central urban area, Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The rest live everywhere else.
Reynis’ closing statement led with protecting our water resources. In our desert, and even in times of drought such as now, my sense is that our water is somehow always supposed to be available.
Other issues are “to deal with income inequality and deep and persistent poverty, (and) to address the inadequacy of its public education system.” Correctly, Reynis called for a compelling vision for the future that can excite and attract, grow and retain businesses.
A governor might provide such a vision, but that is not the case with this administration.