Thursday, November 29, 2007


A bit after noting yesterday the electronic unavailability of the Department of Workforce Solutions' monthly news released about employment numbers, an obvious alternative appeared in the search for the figures: Go to the DWS headquarters and see if a paper copy was available. One was. Low teach, but it worked.
Apparently the news release had been posted minutes before the visit. For the release, see In its post haste, DWS forgot to remove the notice apologizing for the release not being posted. As of 11 a.m. yesterday, the economic research group lacked phones, a fact that also amused the DWS staff that provided an escort to the economic research office.
The release offers news: New Mexico's declining annual rate of employment growth has cracked the 1 percent barrier, dropping to 0.9 percent for the year between October 2006 and October 2007. Three sectors lost jobs statewide: manufacturing (-1,700, -4.4%); construction (-800, -1.3%); information (-100, -0.6%). 
Metro area wage job growth rates were: Santa Fe, 3.9%; Las Cruces, 2.3%; Farmington, 1.5%; and Albuquerque, 1%. With all the metro areas growing faster than the state rate, the arithmetic says rural areas grew even less. Santa Fe's wage job growth came in the face of zero new jobs in six of 12 sectors. Albuquerque manufacturing has lost 1,600 jobs in the past year with semiconductors taking the big hit.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Information Availability

The Web site at the Department of Workforce Solutions ( says that the monthly press release about the employment numbers will be posted in a few days. The delay, it said, is because the economics group is moving to a new office. My confidence in the economists is very high. My faith in the rest of the department has taken another blow. That's because the schedule says the news release was to be out November 21, a week ago. No tech person that I am, I don't get the connection, being baffled by the inability of dws to post on some other computer.
We have here another example of electronic "communication" hurting communication. 
When the city of Albuquerque produced monthly building permit statistics on paper, it took a couple of weeks to get the numbers. Now, with the numbers posted on the city's site, there is a four month or so lag. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Local Gross Receipts Taxes

The New Mexico Tax Research Institute ( newsletter, Tax Matters, reports new gross receipts tax rate numbers from the Taxation and Revenue Department. As of January 1, 2008, the state will have five jurisdictions with a GRT rate above 8 percent. They are two tourist communities, Taos Ski Valley and Red River, and three in Quay County, San Jon, Logan and Tucumcari. Between 7.5 and 8 percent there are 19 other towns. Albuquerque's seemingly modest 6.875 percent is still 18 percent above 2003. 
The rate hike trend has been pushed by the desire to find money to replace the 0.5 percent which was pulled to pay for the food and medical GRT cuts in 2004.
The newsletter includes a good summary of how the GRT works.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Genome Sequencing

The National Center for Genome Resources in Santa Fe has added a new operation, the New Mexico Genome Sequencing Center. Grand opening was November 19. Though the Genome Sequencing operation doesn't appear large—the legislature hit the petty cash box to chip in $600,000—it does appear to be one of those important if unheralded economic development actions. The center adds a new dimension to what is already a national if not world center of science excellence in the state. From an economic development view, that's what counts—expanding the base economy.
See for more.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hotel Book from UNM

"The Economist," the British news magazine, has found another University of New Mexico professor it likes. Hotel: An American History, by Andrew Sandoval-Strausz, gets a laudatory review in the November 24 issue. See Sandoval-Strausz, the review says, "makes two grand claims for the American hospitality industry: that America hotels what they are today and, more startlingly, that hotels helped make America." The latter notion is considered "stretching the argument," the reviewer considers it "an interesting thought to ponder." Sandoval-Strausz is an assistant professor of history.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nuclear Power

I have long said that New Mexico had the best nukes and the best anti-nukes, making for yet another rich vein of discussion the state.
"Power to Save the World" is described as "flat out love song" to the virtues of nuclear energy. The comment comes in a review in today's Wall Street Journal by Spencer Reiss, a "Wired" magazine staffer. The author is Gwyneth Cravens, formerly of both The New Yorker and Harper's Magazine. Cravens grew up in New Mexico. Cravens' "Virgil," Reiss says, is D. Richard Anderson, now retired from Sandia Laboratories, who maybe be the world's leading expert on nuclear waste disposal.
In his best line, Reiss calls the book "a 400-page indictment of the nuclear power industry's tragic-comic inability to tell its own story."
"Power to Save the World" went on sale October 30.

Friday, November 16, 2007

System Note: SHARE

A old rule of systems is: When the users of a system, in order to function, have to invent their own sub-systems, that means the main system doesn't work. So it is with the state's $28 million SHARE system that was supposed to replace human resources and other accounting systems. The particular insight came from the Administrative Office of the Courts which yesterday told the Legislative Finance Committee that half of the 13 district courts (half of 13?) are running payroll systems in parallel to SHARE. "We're in a testing phase while we're in production," the AOC official said, frustration evident.
The comments came during a three-hour grilling of Katherine Miller, Department of Finance and Administration secretary, and other involved with SHARE.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rural Prosperity

Prosperous counties, according to Andrew Isserman, an economist at the University of Illinois, graduate their kids from high school. People work in prosperous counties, and unemployment rates are low. There is less poverty in prosperous counties, and the housing people live in is both affordable and in good repair.
To get rid of the spill-over from metropolitan areas, Isserman looked at what he called "strictly rural" counties. Isserman found that 289 of the 1,371 strictly rural counties were more prosperous than the national average.
No New Mexico counties made the list. Mineral County was the closest "prosperous" Colorado county. Creede is the county seat. It is immediately north of Archuleta County which has Pagosa Springs as the county seat.
Beaver County in the Oklahoma Panhandle made the list. Kane County was the closest Utah County. It is north of the Grand Canyon.
Isserman's study is described at
HIs paper is at The paper is in the Journal of Regional Analysis and Policy, Vol 37, No. 1.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Voter Turnout

In presidential elections, an inverse relationship seems to exist between voter turnout and the gravity of the issues facing the voter. The observation comes from P.J. O'Rourke, writing in the November issue of The Atlantic.
For example, the 1828 race between John Qunicy Adams and Andrew Jackson turned on a choice in the nation's direction and attracted 55.2% of the voters. In 1840, the contest between Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison drew 77.5% of the voters to choose between two men offering nothing much. The 72.1% turnout in 1860 election, which was about the civil war, drew ten points fewer voters than did the 1876 election which must have been about something.
The 1932 election about the depression attracted 56.8% and the 1940 contest had a 62.9% turnout.
Making more people eligible to vote also seems to drop the turnout percentage.
O'Rourke got his numbers from the new five-volume, 25-pound Millennial Edition of Historical Statistics of the United States, published in 2006 and costing $1,000.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

LANL & Supercomputing

Not that Los Alamos National Laboratory ever left the business of computing leadership, it will go back to having the world's most powerful system when the $110 million Roadrunner computer starts operating next year, reports the Wall Street Journal. The project is just another example of new things at the national laboratories as they are in the midst of big changes. IBM is building Roadrunner, which "may be the biggest bet to date on hybrid supercomputing, combining AMD chips with processors used in Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 system," the November 6 Journal report said. Hybrid supercomputing adds specialized accelerator chips to what are called x86 "multicore" chips that have the core circuitry of multiple microprocessors on the chip.
Computing has always been a principal activity at LANL, dating to the lab's creation in the 1940s, because of the need for fast and massive calculations in its nuclear weapons work.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Political Notes

The Albuquerque part of Steve Pearce's official announcement of his United States Senate campaign went nicely. Pearce's volunteers packed nearly everyone who attended the event at the Embassy Suites onto the stage, presumably for the benefit of the television cameras. Former Governor Dave Cargo was a surprising emcee, surprising considering Cargo's reputation for being a moderate and Pearce being a card-carrying conservative. Another surprise was the attendance of three pueblo governors.
Two days later, new University of New Mexico President William Schmidly got an initiation into Politics New Mexico-style. Schmidly's presentation of UNM's tentative plans for development on the nine-hole remnant of the original 27-hole golf course on the north campus was treated mostly civilly by the 300 or so Baby Boomer types crammed into the largest lecture hall in the Law School which borders the golf course. Audience members responding to the presentation got repeated loud applause and shouts of support as they denounced the proposals.
Seven elected officials, all Democrats, attended the presentation and a rally held immediately before the meeting. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez led the elected group. Should something like the plans being discussed move to the building stage, Chavez, a candidate to the United States Senate, threatened to hold the building permits hostage. Legislators threatened retribution as well.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Task Forces

The state seems littered with task forces—health care, a couple on transportation, mortgages, ethics, guardianships and more. The guardianship report is the first one that has come our way. Task force reports will be gathered and posted at, starting with the guardianship report and its appendices. There will be a new section in the top left of the home page called—ta da—Task Report Reports. The reports will be listed in the January issue of Capitol Report New Mexico.
Curiously, the administration doesn't seem to know how many task forces are out there—we've asked. Lack of information about task force work, especially on more obscure topics such as guardianship, run the risk of the proposals disappearing into a black hole and wasting the work of the professionals on the task force.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

NM Medical Insurance Pool

The Pool is a 20-year-old state program offering subsidized health care coverage to people unable to buy private market coverage but who also are ineligible for direct government support. From 2004 to 2005, the Pool's losses roughly doubled to $10.6 million. The losses nearly doubled again in 2006 to $20.8 million. For 2007, losses are projected to be $39 million. The losses are covered by state and federal money and assessments to insurance carriers.
The Pool also subsidizes premiums for lower income people. For example, a two-person household with a $54,623 income, i.e., 399 percent of poverty guidelines, gets a 50 percent premium reduction.