Monthly job losses resume despite mining boost

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By Harold Morgan

Revised job numbers for 2013 show even less growth than first reported. After the statistical one thing and another, the Department of Workforce Solutions says wage employment grew an average of 0.6 percent during the year. That’s down slightly from the 0.7 percent original estimate.
The big part of the 2013 change came because of changes in the 2012 numbers, what DWS called “significant upward revisions” for the fourth quarter. Since job growth during the fourth quarter of 2013 wasn’t much, the 2012 changes meant a higher base for comparing 2013 against 2012 and, in turn, meant the 2013 performance became a decline. Putting it another way, initial reports last year showed job growth rates dropping during the second half of the year. After the revisions, the real situation appears to be economic stagnation and not crummy numbers.
Two months ago, this column shared the Jan. 16, 2014, forecast from the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of New Mexico. That outlook called for 1 percent wage job growth in 2013, 1.4 percent in 2014 and 1.6 percent in 2015 and 2016. At the time, the year-over-year job growth (through November) was 0.2 percent.
BBER seemed optimistic then, more so now, especially since the state has lost jobs, on a year-over-year basis, in both January (minus 3,700) and February (minus 1,900).
There are 11 job sectors — 10 are private, plus government. The two biggest revisions of sector numbers brought confirmation of what seemed obvious during the year.
The financial activities sector was reduced by 1,800 jobs, or 5.1 percent, for an annual average total of 33,400. Maybe the strong increases reported during 2013 reflected hiring for the Medicaid expansion, a DWS economist speculated a while back.
DWS is again reporting big year-over-year finance increases, plus 1,800 for February. Yeah, sure.
Mining and logging got the second largest revision, up 1,500 from the initially reported totals to an annual average of 26,000 wages jobs for 2013. Mining and logging also got a 6 percent boost, or 1,400 jobs, a year ago when the revisions appeared for the 2012 job numbers. The third largest 2013 sector revision came in trade, with retail up 500 and wholesale with 600 more jobs. This is good; retailers bet on growth.
After revisions, Albuquerque added 4,500 jobs for 2013, or an average growth rate of 0.6 percent. The original estimate was 5,300 jobs, or 0.8 percent. The change took Albuquerque from little job growth to even less.
Revision brought 900 more jobs to Santa Fe’s average annual employment estimate. The total became 61,500 jobs. The year-ago revisions took 900 jobs from Santa Fe. Net zero.
Pre-revision, Las Cruces thought it had lost jobs during 2013. The changes found 1,200 more jobs, turning the average annual job change to a positive 0.8 percent. Farmington’s job total also gained from revisions with 500 additional estimated jobs taking the average employment for the year to 49,700.
Given the importance of mining, especially the oil and gas subsector, to the state economy and state government revenue, and given that policy discussions and perhaps decisions are influenced by these numbers, some questions emerge. Starting with: How might these job estimates be closer as the year goes along? For that matter, do we know why the estimates are off as far as they are?
Granting that the numbers are estimates and won’t be totally precise, what is the acceptable margin of error? One percent? What would it take to (a) understand the problem and (b) fix it?
After all, a Federal Reserve economist once observed that New Mexico had the worst quality job numbers around, from the statistical view. See capitolreportnm.blogspot.com for a summary of the DWS February jobs release, distributed March 28.