Friday, April 20, 2018

NM Economy Improving; Long Way To Go

The “overall message” from Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City regional economist Alison Felix on April 18 was, “Things are improving. There is a long way to go.”
Felix spoke in Albuquerque at the Fed’s Albuquerque Economic Forum.
Today Felix got a supporting new number from the Department of Workforce Solutions and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. New Mexico’s unemployment dropped another two tenths of a point in March to 5.6%, down from 5.8% in February and 6.3% in March 2017. Maine, Ohio and Wyoming were the other states with over-the-month unemployment rate decreases. In Maine, hardly anyone is unemployed; the rate is 2.7%.
But on the other hand, that favorite economist’s expression, the state’s unemployment remained second highest in the nation, a point DWS ignored. The good news starts from a low (or high) base.
Metro Albuquerque, with 46% of employment in the state has 4.7% unemployment.
The state added 8,900 wage jobs (seasonally unadjusted) from March 2017 to March 2018 for 1.1% growth. The growth appears erratic. There were 11,000 new year-over-year jobs in February, 7,000 in January and 10,800 in December.
Construction remains the sector growth leader with 3,000 new jobs in the March year, a 4.7% increase. Manufacturing, with 1,200 new jobs, tied construction for the percentage increase lead with 4.7% growth. That manufacturing is growing at all suggests improvement in the New Mexico economy. In part, Felix said, the manufacturing slump has been tied to energy, which supports a lot of manufacturing.
Employment growth has reached Lea and Eddy counties, the oil production heartland. (Note: “employment” is different from “jobs,” developed by different methods. The categories are closely related, of course.)
Lea County employment grew by 1,310 or 5.1%, year over year. Eddy employment grew 2,026. The county job growth seems curious in light of zero mining sector job growth. The two counties do have other things happening such as Carlsbad Caverns and Urenco’s National (uranium) Enrichment Facility near Eunice.
On yet another hand for Lea and Eddy, the drilling boom in the Permian Basin that includes Lea and Eddy is running into some of the bottlenecks characterizing booms, starting a labor shortage. Pipeline capacity is beginning to be problem, the Wall Street Journal reported April 19. Pipelines for natural gas, producing along with oil, are having some of the same dilemmas. “Some producers face the prospect of shutting wells,” the Journal said.
Professional and business services was the number two job producing sector with additional of 2,600. Leisure and hospitality added 1,900. Financial activities grew by 1,200. Transportation, warehousing and utilities added 1,000.
Retail trade, down 1,100, led the losers followed by information and state government education, both down 1,000, and health care, which lost 700.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Abq Home Sales and Prices Up, Inventory down

Metro Albuquerque real estate sales people got it in gear during March. They closed the sale of 34.4 single family homes on the average day during the month. That’s almost ten more sales each day that during February. The sale of 1,066 homes closed during the month, 3.4%, or 35 homes more than March 2017, and 373 homes, or 54% more than during February.
Remember that March had three more days than February. The same sort of sales jump between February and March happened during 2017.
The Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors released the March sales report yesterday.
Pending sales increased 19% to 1,364 during March from 1,142 during February. Pending sales were up 17.8% from March 2017. Seasonality explains at least part of the increase; metro sales increase as the weather warms.
Prices are trending up. Median prices were 187,500 during January, 194,500 for February and $198,000 during March. For Average prices, it was $217,679 during January, $225,342 during February and $242,532 for March. The March average price represented an increase of almost $20,000, or 9%, from $222,574 in March 2017.
The March sales increase comes in the face of a flat inventory of homes available for sale. The metro inventory was 2,671 during January, 2,613 during February and 2,645 during March.
The metro market for single family attached homes showed the same behavior during March with pending and closed sales increasing along with median and average prices.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Metro Job Growth Up From January Rate

Metro area job growth increased on a year-over-year basis from the numbers reported for January. The numbers come from the Labor Market Review, the newsletter of the Department of Workforce Solutions which was released late yesterday afternoon.
For the year between February 2017 and February 2018, Albuquerque added 5,800 jobs; Santa Fe 800; and Farmington 900. Las Cruces dropped 1,500 for the February year, 100 more than disappeared between January 2017 and January 2018. During February Las Cruces added 1,400 jobs, all in government. As reported last week the state added 5,800 jobs.
The state’s 11,000 new jobs over the year represented 1.3% growth which tied for 20th place nationally with four others.
February was a good month for those seeking government jobs. Statewide there were 6,800 new jobs in government (not seasonally adjusted), nearly all in education. State government education added 3,700 jobs with another 2,500 in local government (the k-12 segment).
Albuquerque claimed 2,700 new government jobs during February (40% of the total). There were 1,600 new government jobs in Las Cruces (24%) including 1,400 in state government. For the month, Santa Fe got 1,200 government jobs (18%) with 900 in local government. Farmington should feel left out with only 300 new government jobs.
The year-over-year sector leaders in metro Albuquerque were construction (+2,100), professional and business services (+1,400) and leisure and hospitality (+1,100). In Las Cruces, state government was the largest sector growth leader, down 1,000. Santa Fe’s sector growth leader was leisure and hospitality, up 500.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Unemployment Rates Drops to 5.8%; Still Second Nationally

During February New Mexico’s unemployment rate continued to go lower, dropping 5.8% from 6.4% in February 2017. The change was enough to get the “statistically significant” label from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state still ranks second nationally in the unemployment rate, but is widening the gap with Alaska, the leader.
The Department of Workforce Solutions released the new BLS numbers yesterday.
New Mexico’s 0.1 point drop in the unemployment rate between January and February made the state one of seven with an unemployment rate decline for the month. However nice, the drop did not rate significance.
New Mexico’s labor force grew by about 7,000 during the year from February 2017 to February 2018, going from 928,003 to 935,149. The number of unemployed dropped from 59,775 to 53,927.
Construction was the sector leader in job additions with 3,500. These numbers are not seasonally adjusted.
Among growing basic industries, leisure and hospitality led with 2,300. Professional and business services added 1,500 with 1,000 more in manufacturing (a big switch for a sector that has been disappearing) and 700 more in mining.
Financial activities added 1,500 jobs for the year. Education and health care show no change, another big switch for a sector that a couple of years ago accounted for nearly all the state’s minimal job growth.
Government gained 300 jobs over the year, a net figure that includes 1,000 fewer education jobs. State government education (universities) lost 800 jobs with 200 gone from local government education (the public schools).

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Revisions Reduce 2017 Job Totals

For the year between January 2017 and January 2018, the state’s three job-gaining metro areas produced 5,100 new wage jobs.
Albuquerque accounted for 56% of the statewide year-over-year job growth with 3,900 new wage jobs, a one percent increase. Farmington’s 1.9% increase led the metro percentage growth. Santa Fe added 300 jobs for a 0.5% increase. However, throw in Las Cruces, which lost 1,400 jobs or two percent, for the year and the net metro performance becomes 3,700 new jobs.
The numbers come from the Labor Market Review, the newsletter of the Department of Workforce Solutions which was released yesterday.
For readers’ added enjoyment, the Review offered a bonus, a huge typographical error in the main headline which said, “Highlights: January 2017 Labor Market Data.”
New Mexico’s 0.9% growth lagged next worst performing of eight other peer states in the southwest and Rocky Mountains by half a percentage point. That state was Wyoming with 1.4% job growth for the year.
The state’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.5% in January 2017 to 5.9% in January 2018. We remain entrenched in the ranking of second worst unemployment rate among the states, behind only Alaska, which has 7.3% unemployment.
The new numbers reflect the annual benchmarking process of the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. This process plugs into the job reports, which usually come from a sampling, a broader count through the quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. With the revisions, individual sectors have their ups and downs.
Overall the revisions were not good news. The average growth rate for 2016 dropped to 0.3%, or 2,800 jobs. The improved performance for the state during 2017 came on a smaller base than was initially supposed. The revisions dropped the average wage job total by 9,000 to 830,500.
Two key sectors gained in reported average employment. Mining was revised up an average of 2,000 jobs. The change made the jobs gains in Lea and Eddy counties consistent with the sector gains. As noted in last week’s post, mining showed a 700-job gain for the year, a nice turn from a month ago when the sector performance was down 700 jobs for the December 2016 to December 2017 year. Professional and business services shows 1,300 more jobs, on average for the year.
The larger drops came in retail trade (2,500), educational services (1,900), leisure and hospitality (2,900) and state government education which mostly means universities (2,000).

Monday, March 12, 2018

Employment Rate Drops to 5.9% as Primary Sectors Add Jobs

Even perennially laggard mining/logging sector gained 700 jobs on a not seasonally adjusted basis between during the year between January 2017 and January 2018. The Department of Workforce Solutions released the initial January job report today.
A number of key sectors added jobs during the year, suggesting, just maybe, that the New Mexico economy is improving, though not a lot on a percentage basis. The figures released today include revisions done as part of what DWS calls the annual benchmarking process. We will know more in a week. That’s when DWS will release its Labor Market Review that will discuss the revisions in detail.
Manufacturing, the other main laggard among the basic industry sectors, added 800 jobs for 3.1% growth.
Construction led the sector performers on a year over year not seasonally adjusted basis with 4,100 more jobs, a 9.6% increase. This too will pass.
Leisure and hospitality led primary sectors with 1,300 more jobs, up 1.4%, followed by professional and business services, up 1.2% or 1,200 jobs.
The state’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.5% to 5.9% during the past year, a seasonally adjusted change considered statistically significant by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, which produces the numbers. The labor force grew by about 5,500 during the year while unemployment dropped by 5,500.

February Average Daily Home Sales Up From January

Sales of single family detached homes in metro Albuquerque recovered a bit in February, though the number of closed sales tells a different tale. The trick is that February had just 28 days. While February’s 693 closed sales were down from January’s 721 sales, February averaged 24.75 sales per day while January, with 721 closed sales, averaged 23.26 sales per day. The February performance beat February 2017 by 37 units, or 5.6%, but was well behind December 2017, which had 904 closed sales, a rate of 29.16 per day.
February saw the sale closed of 67% of the 1,037 sales that were pending during January, a low figure.
Pending sales increased 105 units, or 10%, from January to 1,142 for February. The performance was 22.4%, or 209 units, ahead of February 2017. The increase suggests improvement in March sales.
Both median and average sale prices, while up from February 2017, remain below November 2017. The median price for the February sales was $194,500. The average price was $225,342.
Home sold in an average 58 days during February, a week faster than during February 2017, but slower than the closing months of 2017.
The inventory of homes offered for sale continues down. It was 2,613 during February and 3,565 During August 2017. The inventory was 3,194 during February 2017.
The Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors released the February sales report today.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Grisham Emails Keep Inviting Comment

It’s not that I have anything especially against Michelle Lujan Grisham; it’s just that the invitations to comment keep coming via her fund raising emails directed to small donors to her campaign for governor.
The latest appeared February 24. Lujan appears confused about the beginning of Gov. Susana Martinez’ term as governor. Lujan said, “New Mexico has had eight years of failed Republican leadership.” But the Martinez term didn’t start until January 1, 2011. So Grisham is off by ten months. That’s an error of fact and all errors of fact get an F.
The Grisham campaign runs on fear, especially, it seems to me, fear of Steve Pearce, her fellow member of congress and Republican candidate for governor.
Her latest rant is about money. It appeared February 20, continuing the left’s theme that money in politics is evil. She focuses on the Koch brothers of Wichita, KS, favorite left wing bogeymen.
She writes that the brothers “are planning to spend around $400 million in untraceable dark money during the midterm elections—and they’ve singled our race as one for which they are willing to spend big to win.” She cites Pearce’s $900,000 (or so) in congressional campaign funds that he was able to transfer to his governor’s race.
Observation: Money in politics means communications. Sometimes the message works, sometime it doesn’t. Much depends on the messenger.
For example, according to New Mexico News Port, Mayor Tim Keller, all purity, took $544,000 in public funds for his race. But, the article said, “a political committee that formed specifically to support him, Albuquerque Forward Together” raised $674,000, bringing Keller’s total to $1.2 million. Keller also got in-kind donations that were ruled a violation of campaign regulations.
Keller gamed the system and won.
For Ricardo Chaves, spending didn’t work. Chaves $525,000 got him one percent of the vote in the first round.
In the Alabama senate race last year, Doug Jones, the Democrat and the winner, spent about $12 million. The incredibly awful loser, Roy Moore, raised $5 million, Newsweek said. Jones won by 22,000 votes or, 1.5%. Jones’ money helped with his communications.
In 2016 Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful campaign spent $768 million, the Washington Post reported. Donald Trump spent $398 million.
The Koch brothers are active in New Mexico these days through their Americans for Prosperity organization.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Home Sales Start 2018 Nicely

Maybe it was the warm weather. Maybe it was the jobs, few as they are, being added to the metro Albuquerque economy.
Whatever the reason, metro Albuquerque sales of single family homes started the year nicely with 721 closed sales representing a 7.6% increase over January 2017. Everything being relative and seasonal, however, the January sales were 20% down from the 904 sales in December 2017.
The Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors released the January sales report today.
Pending sales, the predictor of closed sales the following month, suggest a good February. January pending sales were 1,037 homes, 28.7% above a year ago and 11%, or 104 homes, above February 2017.
Homes continue to sell faster than a year ago. Homes took an average of 58 days to sell during January. That was four days or 6.5% faster than January 2017. There were 2,671 homes offered for sale during January, a drop of 570 homes, or 17.6%, from a year ago. Inventory dropped two percent, or 65 homes, from December.
Prices changed little from January 2017. January’s average price, $217,679, was down 0.6%, or $1,237, from January 2017. However, that $217,679 was down $12,501, or five percent from December 2017. The average sales price had been over $230,000 for nine months.
The median price during January was $187,500, up 1.1% or $2,000, from January 2017 but down $6,400 or three percent from December.
Sales of attached homes (townhouses or condominiums), 77 during January, were up 30.5% from January 2017. The 118 pending sales were 53% increase from a year before.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Lea Eddy & Metro Albuquerque Grab 72% of new 2017 Jobs

For wage job gains during 2017, it was metro Albuquerque and two rural counties. As reported last week, when the summary numbers were released, the state added 10,800 jobs. Albuquerque gained 4,400 jobs, or 41% of the state total. Eddy and Lea counties, both considered rural gained 3,400 jobs, or 31% of the total.
Farmington, Las Cruces and Santa Fe, the other three metro areas, lost 300 jobs between them for the year between December 2016 and December 2017. Government, down 700 jobs, pulled Las Cruces into the red for 2017. Local government around the Las Cruces metro dropped 600 jobs.
The Department of Workforce Solutions released metro job details yesterday.
Including making up the 300 lost metro jobs, the remaining 24 rural counties gained 3,000 jobs, or 28% of the new jobs scattered around about the home of half the state’s population.
Those 3,100 new leisure and hospitality jobs reported last week included 900 jobs added in December. A guess is that total will take a hit as ski areas continue without natural snow. So will supporting retail.
The small (20,100 jobs) financial sector led Albuquerque’s year-over-year growth with 1,600 jobs, an 8.6% hike. Leisure and hospitality followed with 1,400 jobs, or 3.4%.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

State Gains Jobs. Mining Loses. Eddy, Lea Counties Gain

The year-end jobs report shows few signs of life in the New Mexico economy. My assessment is that our economy is weak and getting a little less weak. The claim by Gov. Susana Martinez in the January 16 State of the State address that we are strong and getting stronger is nonsense.
The state added 10,800 wage jobs in the year between December 2016 and December 2017, massive growth of 1.3%. Government lost 700 jobs over the year; the private sector added 11,500. For the month of December, the state lost 500 jobs.
The unemployment rate was six percent in December, nicely down from 6.7% a year ago. The state is now tied Washington, D.C., for the second highest rate behind Alaska. We had been third for months after D.C. and Alaska. The year-over-year unemployment rate drop was big enough to gain the designation of statistical significance from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which produces the numbers for the Department of Workforce Solutions to repackage and release. DWS released the report yesterday. The state’s job gain wasn’t big enough to be significant.
My guess is that the expansion of the national economy explains much for the state’s improvement. For example, leisure and hospitality, which is tourism to a fair extent, tied with construction to lead sector growth with 3,100 additional wage jobs. New Mexicans traveling in-state aren’t driving the growth. Instead, people from other states with jobs and higher incomes are visiting here.
Weakness shows in the 700-job year-over-year drop in mining, which mostly is oil and gas. Yet Eddy and Lea counties, center of the business, gained 3,400 jobs over the year. Even long-suffering San Juan County, home to the gas business, gained around 700 jobs.
More weakness shows in manufacturing, which continues to fade, dropping another 200 jobs for the year.
The two sectors are small, which only 44,300 jobs between them in December. But they pay well and are basic industry sectors, unlike construction which depends on businesses in other sectors to need buildings.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

December Real Estate Numbers Up

The December numbers moved in a happy direction for the single family detached home marker in metro Albuquerque. The Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors released the December sales report yesterday.
As compared to December 2016, December 2017 new listings were down, pending and closed sales were up, the time to sell a house was down and the inventory of homes for sale was down.
As compared to November, the comparisons show different results, a least part of which is the seasonal slowing of sales.
Closed sales, 904 in December, were up 19 units, or 2.1%, from a year ago. Sales were down 78 units, or 9.4%, from November. Pending sales increased 61 units, or nine percent from a year ago, but showed a 179 unit, or 19.5% drop from November.
Homes took an average 54 days to sell during December, five fewer days than during November 2016. The average sales period was up from 51 days in November and 46 days during October.
The median sales price was $193,900 during December with the average sales price at $230,180. Prices increased, respectively, 2.1% and 3.9% from December 2016. The median price dropped $5,600, or 2.8%, from November. The average was down $6,909, or 2.9%, from November.
During 2017 the sale of 11,745 single family detached homes closed in metro Albuquerque. That was a 6.5% increase from 2016. The sale of 1,165 condominiums and townhouses closed during the year, an 11.3% increase over 2016.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

ABQ Blows Smoke at Sunset Mag. Sunset Inhales

Abq is one of 20 communities in Sunset magazine’s annual “20 Best Places to Live” feature. The headline is, “an enchanting downtown revival.” The first mention is “Breaking Bad.” The second is that Microsoft was founded in Albuquerque, which happened in 1975. S0 ABQ has no other cool events in the last 43 years except “Breaking Bad.” The photo is dominated by the Kimo Theater. The hot news is that the “12-block” Central Ave core is being “reinvigorated” from its previous existence of boarded up warehouses and tagged railroad cars, attractions that exist but are off the main Central Ave downtown. Sunset touts the “city’s investment in new public transportation lines.” Just today new Mayor Tim Keller held a news conference detailing the lengthy list of big troubles with those transportation lines, which are know as the ART project. And the city still doesn’t have the money from the feds to pay for ART.
Sunset claims downtown “has become a place where locals gather all days of the week.” My understanding is that downtown is substantially empty. Am I missing something?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

No Surprise—Higher Ed Study Recommends No Change

A study led by the Higher Education Department that recommended no change in the structure of higher education in New Mexico wasn’t quite as ridiculous as it sounds. That’s because the study group was responding to a joint memorial from the 2017 legislature instructing that the department to compare New Mexico higher education with other states.
So that’s what the group did—play by the imposed rules.
Apparently nothing creative appeared.
My reaction to the headline, “Higher ed panel doesn’t endorse consolidation,” was that here we had another instance of the fox being assigned to review the condition of the chicken coop. A prominent such circumstance was a couple of years ago when the transportation department review the status of the commuter railroad, which it runs. NO, DOT’s repot said, we can’t do anything with the railroad except continue to lose millions each year.
To a certain extent, we did have a chicken coop exercise, but the group was just playing within the assigned rules. Still, when Western New Mexico President Joe Shepard co-leads the group, it can be expected that he will defend “local control.” Yet Western leads my list for structural change, as in from a four-year school into two-year school and perhaps closing Western’s programs in Deming or Truth or Consequences or turning them over to New Mexico State which will have greater administrative capability.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Tour Acoma Sky City. A Matter of Respect. Take Money.

We visited Acoma Sky City a few weeks ago. Sky City is the mesa—a rock, really—that still is home to a few Acoma People and draws hundreds for feast days, dances and other ceremonies. Sky City is located about 15 miles south of 1-40 and is reachable from exit 108 on the west and exit 102 on the east. Check for details such as tour times. Tours are competently run, informative and not exactly cheap at $25/person regular price. For romantics there is plenty of opportunity to partake of the Native American ethereal and spirituality. The Sky City brochure quotes a woman from Florida, “What an eye opening reverent moment.” OK.
Sky City is a 700-year time warp or maybe 900 years. The rock has no plumbing, no running water and no electricity except for propane.
A few highlights were unexpected simply because I hadn’t given them a thought. Sky City is a shopping mall. The tour is circle around the top of the rock. All along the route Acoma craftspeople have tables with their stuff, nice stuff. The vendors must be paid. We used cash. Others paid electronically using what I took to be a wireless device the size of a smartphone. The payment was inserted into one end of the device.
The tour buses climb a road that was cut 20 years (or so) ago to transport movie filming gear to the top. A newish, 4-door silver BMW was my first sight after our bus left the road. Note this, not a pickup truck, though we a saw a couple of new looking, large and brightly polished pickups, but a Beemer, baby. Cool.
A New Mexicans should take the tour. It’s a matter of respect.