Saturday, October 30, 2010

Work Force Services Claims Recovery; Jobs Lost

The Department of Workforce Services claims, “We are now several months into a slow recovery.” Yet New Mexico lost jobs, 2,400 of them, in the year between September 2009 and September 2010. Yes, we did gain 13,400 jobs between August and September as noted last week from the presentation of Mark Snead of the Kansas City Federal Reserve. It’s the year over year performance that counts, but the monthly change counts too. How DWS can cite the year of year loss of 2,400 jobs as “recovery” is beyond me.
Still, four employment sectors gained jobs in September. They are:
o Educational & Health Services – 3,300 jobs.
o Leisure & Hospitality – 2,400 jobs.
o Manufacturing – 1,700 jobs.
o Mining – 800 jobs.
The further good news from this situation is that three of the sectors provide what economic developers call “basic jobs,” those jobs paid for by money from outside the state and which products outside the state or local market. These gains aren’t large, but they suggest future good news. The “basic job” sectors are leisure & hospitality, manufacturing and mining. These sectors, along with professional and business services, are central to any economic recovery.
The September job performance for the four metro areas is:
Albuquerque: Monthly +3,300. Year over year -4,800.
Farmington: Monthly +400. Year over year -1,300.
Las Cruces: Monthly +1,300. Year over year +1,700.
Santa Fe: Monthly -600. Year over year -300.
Las Cruces has added jobs for several months. Las Cruces is out of recession.
By another measure, we’re down to “only” four counties with more than 10% unemployment. The counties are Mora, Luna, Guadalupe and Grant. In September, all four showed a lower unemployment rate that the previous month.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

NM Adds Jobs During September!

Nationally, the largest over-the-month percentage non-farm payroll employment increases during September were in the District of Columbia (+2.3 percent), New Mexico (+0.9 percent), and New Hampshire (+0.8 percent).

This means 7,100 job increase to 804,500 seasonally adjusted jobs in New Mexico.

This isn’t a year-over-year increase, which is what really counts, but then we shouldn’t quibble.
New Mexico’s unemployment rate was 8.2 percent during September, the same as August and down a tenth of a point from August.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Some Good News For the NM Economy. Really!

First to the headlines. The Albuquerque Journal reported this morning that the Chino (copper) Mine in the Silver City area will reopen. Eventually there will be 570 employees. It’s not exactly accurate to say “new jobs” because these jobs existing until the mine closed in early 2009.
The second story reported that hotel occupancy and revenue have been increasing, on a year over year basis, since March. This ratifies anecdotal evidence mentioned here since July.
The two stories reflect the main argument last night from Mark Snead, branch executive and economist with the Denver branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Snead was the warmup for his boss, Tom Hoenig, at the KC Fed’s New Mexico Economic Forum in Albuquerque.
Overall, Snead said, New Mexico is “progressing through the cycle nicely.” New Mexico and Colorado got into the recession game late, were hit hard, and both are still in recession.
But there are a few glimmers with a number of sectors bouncing along the bottom and a couple of key sectors adding a handful of jobs. Las Cruces has added jobs for several months, as has been reported here.
Snead is sending his presentation. When it arrives I’ll do a more detailed report.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bernalillo County Wage Drop Rate Doubles State Rate

Bernalillo County is New Mexico’s only member of the group of the nation’s 327 largest population counties.
We know the county is performing poorly economically. Not that we need any reminder, today the Bureau of Labor Statistics posted some numbers on the performance of those 327 largest counties. The numbers are for the first quarter of the year. Things are better now, as UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research might put it. For those of us in the real world, BBER’s “better” means “less bad.”
In any case….
For the first quarter of 2010, Bernalillo County had 17,400 business establishments which employed a total of 309,500 people. Employment dropped 2.1% from the first quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of 2010. The employment performance ranked 161 among the 327, a little above the middle.
Those 309,500 people earned an average of $760 each week, a year over year decline of 1.3%. The wage performance ranked 237, toward the top of the lowest one-third of the counties.
As compared to the state, the recession has hit Bernalillo County harder. Employment dropped two percent, year over year. The average wage statewide, $716 in the first quarter of 2010, dropped 0.8% from the first quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of 2010, less than half the Bernalillo County rate of wage decline.
A business establishment is a place where business is done. A firm such as a fast food franchise or a bank can operate several establishments.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Albuquerque Home Prices Stable, Sort Of. That's the Only Good News.

For single family detached homes in metro Albuquerque, prices appear fairly stable, actually up a little. That’s the one nice thing to be said about the residential real estate market around here. And note that the price comment applies only to detached homes. For town houses and condominiums, prices are drifting down on a year over year basis.
Median condo prices peaked in June at $155,000 and were $142,00 in September.
During September, the average detached home sales price continued ahead of 2009 in metro Albuquerque. For the 479 single family detached homes with sales closed during September, the average price was $217,677. That was 3.7% above the average price during September 2009, though down from August and July 2010.
September was the third month in a row with the average price of a metro area home higher than the same month a year before. The median single family detached home price, $183,000 for September, increased from August and from September 2009.
Homes are selling faster in Albuquerque. The average detached home that sold during September was on the market for 74 days, two days less than September 2009. It took an average of 67 days for a townhouse or condominium to sell during September. That was a week less than a year earlier. During all nine months of 2010, single family detached homes have sold more quickly than during the same month of 2009.
There were 479 closed sales of single family detached homes during September. That was a 6.3% drop from August. Closed sales peaked in May at 731, the month after the first time homebuyer tax credit ended. Sales have declined every month since, evidence of the folly of such programs. Condo sales also peaked in May, at 103, and have dropped every month since. Closed condo sales were 47 in September.
Sales were pending for 657 homes during September, down 14% from August.
In addition to the end of the tax credit, factors in play for September include the number of foreclosed homes not yet on the market, the end of the summer “peak” selling seasons and Albuquerque’s poor economy that still is losing jobs.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wall•E Look Alike At White Sands

Wall•E has returned to New Mexico. The amiable trash-compacting robot first appeared in the state in a movie trailer that debuted at The Walt Disney Company’s annual meeting held in Albuquerque in 2008.
More recently Wall•E has been roaming White Sands Missile Range. Actually, it’s not Disney’s computer animated Wall•E that is at White Sands, but perhaps a three-dimensional cousin with a remarkable physical resemblance.
The Army Evaluation Task Force, based at Fort Bliss, has been testing a variety of gear for battlefield reconnaissance to see if technical matters from tests during 2009 have been resolved. The equipment includes The Wall•E resembling Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle and a Class I Unmanned Aerial System, which looks a little like one of those barrels for cooking turkeys in oil and can fly up to eight kilometers from its operator.
The objective is to link these devices via roving digital command posts that will become a secure mobile network to provide soldiers a detailed, real time view of the battlefield.
This report appeared in the September 15 Wall Street Journal.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

UNM vs. NMSU vs. UTEP: A Suggestion

Photo by Mark Bralley
We need to continue investing our tax dollars in the attempt to play big time football at the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University. All this investment is absolutely required to provide sports journalists with the opportunity to create tacky headlines. Case in point: from the Albuquerque Journal, Saturday, October 9. “Battle of the Beatens Scheduled Tonight.” Nice.
At the end of the story, NMU coach DeWayne Walker posed the unthinkable. Stating the obvious, he said NMSU has never had a winning program, “and when you look at the resources we have compared to New Mexico, it’s not even close what they have to what we have.
“I just think everybody, from the administration to the community, at some point we’re going to have to make a decision on how bad we want a legitimate football program.”
Lack of resources and all, Walker’s Aggies beat UNM 16-14. Walker’s two-year record is now 4-14. With the loss, UNM’S Mike Locksley brought his record to 1-17.
A few weeks back, UNM’s football boosters made a market decision on Locksley. They decided to not come up with the big bucks needed to buy out Locksley’s contract. After all, there’s still a recession in Albuquerque.
Here’s a suggestion. Have the Lobos, the Aggies and the University of Texas at El Paso drop their respective conferences, which amount to little on the scale of things anyway. Recruit some other area schools such as Eastern New Mexico and Adams State and form a “Rio Grande Conference.” Follow the Ivy League example and emphasize the social aspects of football afternoons while keeping the game itself at a level where fans could enjoy the competition without embarrassment.
Besides, more locals would be able to play.
My friend Mark Bralley suggests adding more New Mexico schools to the proposed conference—St. John's in Santa Fe, New Mexico Tech, Central New Mexico (which is a community college so that probably wouldn't work). Such a group should include University of the Southwest in Hobbs which actually competes in intercollegiate athletics, though not football, in a conference, the Red River Athletic Conference. University of the Southwest is one of two non-Texas schools in the conference. The other is from Louisiana. The existing RRAM schools don't play football, but surely that detail could be solved along the lines suggested above.
St. John's only intercollegiate athletics competition that I know of is an annual croquet match in Annapolis with the Naval Academy. Tech's alphabetical topic list on the website lack an entry for athletics but Tech is offering a club-level, it appears from the website, women's rugby team named the Pygmy Queens. The notion of an athletic contest between Tech and St. John's offers all sorts of delightful notions, Socrates and Kant vs. string theory. Or something.
Mark's photograph is of UNM's Locksley speaking to the New Mexico State Senate early in 2009. That year Locksley coached in Senate basketball team which beat the House for the first time in nine years. Bralley wonders that if Locksley became the permanent Senate basketball coach, then maybe the government reorganization task force could find something to cut that would actually save money.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Uranium Reports: Balance, Sanity and Outrage

Three recent published reports dealing with uranium provide unexpected balance from a hugely unlikely source, an unexpected note of sanity from another surprising source and a new entrant in what I call the uranium-genocide genre.
The New Yorker magazine is the hugely unlikely source. In the September 13 issue it provides have a thorough and balanced consideration of having a uranium mill in the neighborhood around communities in western Montrose County, Colorado, near Utah. At eight pages, the article isn’t the issue’s longest, but it appears first, indicating the editors think it is important.
For one seeking balance, the title isn’t promising, “The Uranium Widows: Why would a community want to return to milling a radioactive element?” But Peter Hessler, the writer, starts with a resident of Paradox, Colorado, who has been around the local uranium all her life and is just fine with a proposed new mill. “For outsiders, this reaction is puzzling,” Hessler writes.
The area’s uranium history is nearly 100 years long. Through the 1950s, “there was essentially no regulation. Most mines lacked proper ventilation,” Hessler says. Then very high radon concentrations were discovered and Hessler makes a key point. “Miners liked their cigarettes underground, where radioactive particles attached to the smoke and were drawn deep into the lungs.”
Hessler mentions the late Stewart Udall, father of present New Mexico Senator Tom Udall. “Udall represented, among others, families of Navajo Indians who died after mining in terrible conditions in New Mexico; in Udall’s words, the government ‘has needlessly sacrificed the lives of (the Navajo miners) in the name of national security.’” The Udall statement begs to be taken apart because the victimization has become the received wisdom. Were the miners really “sacrificed?”
In Colorado, the widows don’t see the men as victims, rather that they chose a high risk, well paying occupation. And they smoked.
Hessler talked to environmentalists opposed to the mill proposed for Paradox. In the conversations, he says, “I noticed a vagueness with regard to scientific issues.”
Fascinating. Find an abstract at To get the full article online, you will have to subscribe.
Sanity came from The New Mexican in late August. The August 224 story began, “Nature, not Los Alamos National Laboratory, is currently the biggest source of uranium contamination in water around Española, Pojoaque, Nambé and Santa Fe.” The next day an editorial noted that uranium in the water was a known situation and said, “Nor is there any cause for alarm; caution, yes; panic no.” If a resident has a concern, get the water tested.
Panic or at least outrage over history is the contribution from a new book, “Yellow Dirt, An American Story of a Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed.” Judy Pasternak is a Los Angeles Times reporter who attended a 2003 meeting in Albuquerque of environmental agencies on the topic uranium related health and environmental issues. Pasternak was outraged at what she heard. A series of articles and the book resulted. The headline on the Albuquerque Journal’s September 26 book review said, “Deadly Earth. Book details uranium mining’s poisoning of the Navajos and their land.”
You get the idea of why I put this one in the uranium / genocide genre.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Susan La Tejana Ad, Parochialism Reigns Supreme

Mostly I stay out of the she said/she said back and forth of the race for governor. I’m more interested in the ideas, the serious talk about the future of New Mexico.
When sniping began (in the north, as I remember) about Susan Martinez’ birthplace, I felt the whole thing was silly, emblematic of a distasteful parochialism. The context, I remember, was some nonsense claim that Martinez might make pro-Texas water policy decisions as a result of her birthplace. It was enough to make one think that Val Kilmer meant exactly what he said when he made those tacky comments about his neighbors in San Miguel County.
Today things got a bit different. I saw a bumper sticker saying something to the effect of, “No to Susana La Tejana.” The parochialism has traveled south to Albuquerque, I thought. How annoying.
Then I happened to check, the informative and often delightful blog from Steve Terrell, political writer at The New Mexican. He has posted two new Denish commercials, one featuring Brian Colón, Denish’s running mate. Colón says of Martinez, “We know Susana Martinez is from Texas. We know she’s bought and paid for by a Texas billionaire.”
I don’t know Martinez’ relationship with the rich Texas guy, other than she got boatloads of money. Had I been able to interview Martinez, I would have asked. But Martinez manager Ryan Cangiolosi said no interview, so that’s a problem for Cangiolosi and Martinez.
1. This notion that birthplace matters is insulting to all New Mexicans. I choose to take the issue personally because, by chance, I was born in Oklahoma. Even though my parents had the good sense to get out of Oklahoma more than 50 years ago, the Colóns of the New Mexico world cast me as an inferior New Mexican.
2. Martinez invites the birthplace issue by finessing her birthplace. Her website says, “Susana was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley.” We have learned that she was born in the El Paso portion of the Valley. Big deal. Why the paranoia, Ms. Martinez? See
3. Denish was born in Hobbs, all of five miles inside New Mexico from Texas. She understands that people born in other states just might have something to offer. In my August 26 interview with her, she said, “You know half of the people in this state are not people who grew up here. There’s lots and lots of valuable expertise available to us now….”
This comment is in the interview transcript that was posted September 21. The comment is toward the bottom of the transcript.
The Colón ad suggests desperation.
4. A small potential exists that Martinez' birthplace and, much more important, growing up in the three state, two nation La Frontera environment might lead to better public policy decisions. New Mexico politicos have a not-so-grand tradition of ignoring the south. The complex reality is that we have around 2.5 million people in the three state, two nation area. Adding to the complexity is the drug war in Juarez. Just by living her life, Martinez knows this complex reality.
We can’t continue to make “only New Mexico decisions.” Water is just one policy arena where regional decisions are necessary. Basins don’t pay attention to political borders. In this area, basins wander across all the political borders.