Poor economy makes people leave N.M.

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By Harold Morgan

The worst state economy in the nation is right here in New Mexico. Albuquerqueans are very good at divorce. People are leaving the state.
These things go together.
Having the worst state economy means tying Kentucky for the nation’s leading wage-job loss percentage between February 2013 and February 2014, according to the Labor Market Review, the newsletter of the state Department of Workforce Solutions released April 4, late in that day after potential readers had gone home. DWS buried the news —it’s an election year, after all — leaving it at the bottom (where else?) of a table on page 16.
We lost 0.2 percent of our wage jobs, or 1,900, over the year. Virginia was the only other state losing jobs. The losses concentrated in Albuquerque, which reported 4,500 fewer jobs, a 1.2 percent drop.
Maybe it was newly divorced people leaving town.
Men’s Health magazine ranked divorce propensity in 100 cities. Albuquerque placed 99th, followed only by Charleston, W.Va. Joe Queenan, described as “a humorist” by the Wall Street Journal, which hosts his column, called the bottom 10 “blighted burgs.”
Charleston became famous in January with a chemical spill affecting 300,000. Of the Duke City, Queenan said, “In Albuquerque, the annual balloon show brings in a lot of out-of-state hotties who systematically break up marriages.”
Maps can ease the brain glaze produced by constant review of numbers. A New Mexico population change map shows a Sash of Decline across the state from the northeast corner to the southwest. The map for changes between 2008 and 2013 shows a wide band of 15 population losers with a hole of neutrality for Harding County and San Juan as an outlier. For the 2003 to 2008 period, 13 counties lost population. The maps came from William Frey of the Brookings Institute and appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
Anyone thinking these observations skew negative, well, that’s true. The loss trend shows additional movement, accelerated movement, since the census in 2010. A Census Bureau map shows the Sash dominates the state.
For the three-plus years between the 2010 census and mid-2013, the county population loss group went to 20. Growth counties are in the southeast and along the west half of Interstate 40.
For the most recent year, mid-2012 to mid-2013, two more counties joined the loss group, bringing it to 22. That’s two-thirds of our 33 counties. Even Doña Ana County, number two in population with 213,460 in 2013, lost people during the year. A few left the country, returning to Mexico.
New Mexicans know economic change and population decline. We have ghost towns to prove it.
The good news is that some people aren’t just waiting around. They move, seeking opportunity. That means a healthier, more efficient economy overall. But for the rural areas left behind, tough luck. Rural areas nationally share the dilemma. The money is in the cities, except sometimes. So is the healthcare.
Domestic migration is the term for people moving to and from other parts of the U.S. For our one-year period, 2012 to 2013, six counties had more people move in than left. Sandoval (inexpensive homes) and Santa Fe (romance, retirement) grow reliably if inconsistently. Taos and Mora are mysteries. People came to Lea and Eddy for a real and functioning economy of oil, gas, nuclear, potash and tourism.
Politicians can’t solve these problems, but attention, governor, could be focused. Some chance exists that Democrats might figure this out and say it’s your fault.