NM among national leaders in people moving away

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By Harold Morgan

Revised federal numbers show a few new jobs appearing in New Mexico during 2012. Original reports were of seven consecutive months of losses starting in June.
The losses followed ten months of slight gains. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the seasonally unadjusted wage job total for January was 793,600. The 3,500 job increase from January 2012 was 0.46 percent.
Reviewing sector performance leaves one wondering about the source of the job growth. Only two sectors showed an increase that might not be a rounding error.
Leisure and hospitality added 2,000 jobs, or 2.4 percent, over the year for a total of 84,000 jobs. The 1,500 job increase in financial activities brought the sector to 33,800 jobs. The increase was 4.6 percent.
New Mexicans’ response to the slightly increasing job totals in 2011 and 2012 was acceleration of what began a year earlier, to leave the state.
The decision to move, to “migrate” in the Census world, is significant and driven by economics, the long term opportunity to work and provide for the family. Pretty sunsets, rich culture, dry climate, even taxes, all are factors in our personal location decisions, but none pay the bills or educate the children.
The numbers, however abstract and antiseptic, report the decisions of people. The assumption here is that nearly all the time people make decisions they believe to be in their best interest. People do make mistakes, but they aren’t purposefully stupid.
And they are leaving New Mexico.
For the population pros, migration means what you would expect — people moving from one place to another. “Domestic” migration means moving from (or to) New Mexico from another place in the United States. International migration is into or out of this country.
On a national map showing population change, if pink is the color given counties losing population due to domestic migration, New Mexico will be one of the pinkest states.
The New Mexican pinkness — embarrassment, perhaps — blushes in contrast to resumption of the national trend of people moving from the North and Midwest to the West and South.
The counties paint a remarkable and dark picture of New Mexico as a functional place attractive to people and, by extension, attractive to companies.
Population changes because of natural increase (more babies born than people die) and migration.
The new baby factor remained about the same from the April 2010 census through July 2012.
More of the negative — fewer coming, more leaving — happened from July 2011 to July 2012. This is especially bad because for a long time the big part of our population growth has come from babies.
For the July 2011 to July 2012 year, the population headline is that only five of our 33 counties saw more people move in from other places in the U.S. than left. Opportunity attracted people to Eddy, Lea, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Sierra counties. The other 28 were losers.
From the April 2010 census to July 2011, a 15-month period, 13 counties showed positive domestic migration — more people moving in. For 23 counties the migration situation worsened during the 2011-2012 year as compared to the earlier period. Of the ten counties with an improved migration situation in 2011-2012, only Lea and Eddy counties pulled the big switch, moving to positive migration after losing migrants during the earlier period. For the other eight, the situation just got less bad.
Seven counties, led by Sierra, had the number of deaths beat the babies born during the 2010 to 2012 period.
Two-thirds of our counties lost population during the 2011-2012 year. The tax package compromise that ended the legislative session was worthy. But the real and barely addressed problem for nearly all the state is profitable, long term production of goods and services.