Friday, December 31, 2010

Older Boomers Pass Torch to Martinez

For all the talk of change under the Susana Martinez administration, one significant demographic has drawn nary a peep.
The older Baby Boomers have passed the leadership torch in New Mexico’s state government. The Boomers are those born between 1946 and 1965. The older group, say those over 60, were the ones responsible for The Sixties and communes in northern New Mexico.
The torch passing didn’t come without a fight. Diane Denish, age 60+, was the Democrats’ candidate for governor. Outgoing Gov. Bill Richardson is over 60.
Martinez is 51. She’s still a Boomer, but is 13 years younger than the oldest ones.
As of this writing, Martinez has appointed 13 cabinet members. The average age is 51. Jose Garcia is the oldest at 65, which makes him a year too old to be a Baby Boomer. Only one other cabinet appointee, Yolanda Berumen-Deines at Children Youth and Families, is over 60. Two of the appointees are in their 30s, young enough to be children of Garcia, Berumen-Deines, and the several appointees in their upper 50s.
The Boomers in their 60s still have plenty to contribute. But, overall, the demographic switch is good. Maybe this younger group really can change New Mexico.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Richardson Didn't Do It; WNMU Plans Graduate Program Expansion

I was going to post this item yesterday, but it seemed inappropriate to be crabby on Christmas Day.
The week is rife (“Rife” is journalist jargon meaning abundant or abounding.) with year-end and Richardson administration retrospectives. On Christmas Eve, The New Mexican posted an Associated Press interview with Gov. Richardson.
Two comments indicate the depth of delusion as the administration ends.
1. “Richardson contends the deficit isn't his fault and that New Mexico is in much better shape than other states.”
2. Quoting the Governor, "’I think we left the state in good shape. It's upbeat, positive, with more confidence and more possibilities for the future,’ he said.”
Then there is Western New Mexico University in Silver City, also in line for the delusion award. In a recent column I wrote about Western’s seeming proliferation of graduate degree programs in obscure topics. Amazingly, more will appear if the WNMU regents have their way.
A December 16 WNMU news release says, “At its December meeting, the Western New Mexico University Board of Regents approved a five-year academic plan for new degree programs.
“On the list includes six certificate programs, five associate degrees, two baccalaureate
degrees and 11 master degrees that will be proposed over the next five years.
“A doctorate degree (Ed.D.) in Leadership for Rural and Diverse Populations is scheduled for a 2011-2012 proposal. If approved, it would be the first doctorate degree offered at WNMU.”
Western’s total enrollment for the fall of 2009 was about 3,300, less than a large high school. The figure comes from Western’s online fact sheet. Note that the enrollment figures are more than a year old. The main campus had 2,600 students in the fall of 2009 with additional campuses in Deming, Gallup, Truth or Consequences and all of 31 students at the Lordsburg “campus.”
On the face of it, Western seems to offer an excellent example of the nonsensical proliferation among New Mexico’s universities. The University of New Mexico also has a campus in Gallup. The intuitive reaction is that UNM can run the Gallup location far more efficiently Western. For one thing, it’s much easier to get to Gallup from UNM’s main campus in Albuquerque, which is 140 miles from Gallup via I-40. Silver City is over 200 miles from Gallup with much of the route through the mountains.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wage Jobs Drop 4,400 For Year, 3,700 For Month

New Mexico lost 4,400 wage jobs in the year from November 2009 to November 2010 and 3,700 jobs from October 2010 to November. This brought the number of wage jobs to 808,200 in November, a one half of one percent (0.5%) loss for the year. The performance allowed the Department of Workforce Services to say in its curious doublespeak, “Job growth has gradually improved from a low of negative 4.9 percent posted in October and November 2009.” I guess less negative is better.
The good new about this month’s report is that three critical sectors reported year-over-year gains: mining (+600); manufacturing (+1,600); and leisure and hospitality (+1,400).
Local government overall lost 500 jobs, but what is called “local government education” (the public schools, I think), lost 2,300 over the year, meaning that the rest local government added 1,800 jobs.
Because jumping on my usual “how can that happen” platform, it’s worth noting that some of the movement may be just statistical.
NMSU New Mexico Business Outlook electronic newsletter for December ( puts it this way. “The employment situation statewide is mixed. The establishment survey, which measures job creation, indicates an increase of 0.6 percent in October 2010 compared to October 2009. This is the first positive year-over-year job growth statistic since the start of the recession in October 2008.
“While the establishment survey shows growth, the household survey, which measures employment, was down 0.3 percent. This conflict between the establishment and household surveys is common at the bottom of a recession and indicates that the recession is all but over.”
The December issue of New Mexico Business Outlook also has a dandy explanation of state government retirement plan issues.
While metro Albuquerque did add 700 jobs in November, the Duke City continues as the state’s metro loss leader, as it were, losing 6,700 wage jobs year-over-year. Albuquerque’s big losses were in construction (-3,100) and professional and business services (-3,800).
Santa Fe is the second place metro job loser, down 400 for the year. Santa Fe’s professional and business services sector lost 400 while state government added 100.
Farmington dropped another 200 wage jobs, year-over-year.
The math (6,700 plus 400 plus 200 minus 4,400) indicates that the rest of the state gained 2,900 jobs for the period.
Las Cruces is recovering, NMSU has observed for several months. The gain was 1,500 wage jobs for year with 1,100 of the gain coming in professional and business services.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Neighbors Grow Faster

In Tuesday’s post I messed up the percentage growth in New Mexico’s population between 2000 and 2010. This has been fixed. New Mexico’s population grew 13.2% for the decade and ranks 36th among the states.
The percentage growth for the decade of our neighboring states is: Arizona, 24.6%; Utah, 23.8%; Texas, 20.6%; and Colorado, 16.9%. Of these states, Utah sort of doesn’t count because that state’s growth from citizens following the Biblical injunction about going forth and multiplying. Utah’s “border” with New Mexico consists of one point at the four corners. Oklahoma, which does have a modest border with New Mexico, grew less fast than New Mexico.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Albuquerque 91st Best City for Business, Ties McAllen, Texas.

In the fifth annual ranking of best cities for business, Albuquerque tied for 91st out of the 102 cities considered. Albuquerque tied with McAllen, Texas, a border city with a per capita income among the nation’s lowest.
Placing ahead of Albuquerque were these regional and somewhat similarly sized cities: Omaha, 2*; Des Moines, 4*; Oklahoma City, 19*; Tulsa, 27; Boise, 42; Wichita, 44; Colorado Springs, 54*; El Paso, 73; and Tucson, 84.
Marketwatch metrics included tourism GDP, military GDP, economic stability, unemployment, personal income, population growth.
The 102 cities ranked are those with a population of more than 500,000.
* = As does Albuquerque, these cities have teams in the Pacific Coast League.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NM Population: Just Released

As of April 1, 2010, the Census Bureau says New Mexico's "resident population" was 2,059,179. The figures were released at 11 a.m. today, Eastern Time, about 90 minutes ago. Ten years ago, our population as 1,855,059. That's an additional 204,120 people in the decade, a 13.2% increase.
Another 8,094 people are considered to be the state's overseas population. The two figures combined to produce the "apportionment population" of 2,067,273.
New Mexico's population was 1,515, 000 in 1990, a 16% hike from 1980. Through 2000, New Mexico;s population added 340, 059 people, a 22% increase, double the growth rate through 2010.
The original estimate for New Mexico's 2009 population was 2,009,671. That estimate was derived from the 2000 census figure and looks to have been on the low side. There's no way the state added nearly 50,000 people in less than a year during a recession. The original 2009 estimate was released in December 2009.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Income Grows, Lab Wages Frozen, Chu Takes Cheap Shot at G.W. Bush.

Personal income in New Mexico showed a one percent increase (seasonally adjusted) in the third quarter of 2010 from the second quarter of 2010. That’s down from 1.9% growth in the second quarter. The third quarter performance was good for 11th place nationally.
Net earnings contributed 60% of the one percent increase with 40% from transfer payments such as unemployment and welfare.
At 0.14%, the farm sector showed the largest increase for the third quarter. Mining and construction earnings both grew 0.07%.
Earnings of federal civilian employees dropped 0.12% during the quarter.
Further earnings growth in the state will be hit by the wage freeze for national laboratory employees announced yesterday. The move affects about 17,000 New Mexicans, roughly split between Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory. National laboratory employees often earn more than $100,000.
A previously announced freeze hit 32,000 federal government employees in the state. The two freezes, affect 6.1% of the state’s wage earners.
The announcement of the freeze including a gratuitous cheap shot at former President George W. Bush and demonstrated the Obama administration’s continued unwillingness to accept responsibility for its financial policies after nearly two years in office.
As reported in the Albuquerque Journal, the release from DOE Secretary Steven Chu said, “As our nation continues to recover from these challenging economic times and we work to address the massive deficits we inherited….”
Dr. Chu conveniently overlooks the fact that the Obama administration’s deficit spending makes George W. Bush look like an amateur.

NM Employment Drop Leads Nation

From October to November, the largest percentage decrease in employment occurred in New Mexico with a 0.5% drop. New Mexico showed a seasonally adjusted drop of 4,100 wage jobs during the month, from 807,700 to 803,600.
The figures were released yesterday as part of the monthly Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For the month, New Mexico’s unemployment rate added a statistically insignificant tenth of a point, growing to 8.5% from 8.4% in October.
Over the November-to-November year, the state lost 4,300 wage jobs.
Government lost 2,600 jobs during November. Construction gained 500 jobs during November after adding 1,500 jobs in October. At 45,400, the construction employment remains below the November 2009 employment of 45,700.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Single Family Homes Sales Up in November.

Maybe it was the warm weather during October drawing people out and about to look at new houses and make deals that closed in November. The metro economy, still well mired in recession, certainly isn’t what kept the October pending sales figure at 655, just two fewer than the 657 sales pending during September.
But the role of pending sales as an indicator of closed sales the following month stayed true for November, normally not a month when the number of homes sold increases from the previous month.
November 2010 broke the rule with the sale of 469 single family homes closed during the month, a 2.8% increase from October. The sale of 589 homes was pending during November, down 10% from October, suggesting a drop in sales for December. January and February usually are the two slowest sales months of the year.
Prices for single family homes in Albuquerque continued to increase on a year-over-year basis during November. The median price was $177,500 during November. The average price was $220,453. The median price improved for the third consecutive month with the average price up for the fifth month on a year-over-year comparison.
For townhomes and condominiums, the median price for October, $155,000, showed an 11% increase from November 2009 and tied May for the highest median price of the year. The average townhouse price was $152,363 during November, and 5,110 homes were offered for sale in metro Albuquerque.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Management: Richardson Administration Style

A conversation today with a Richardson administration cabinet secretary turned to management matters. This secretary makes "happy birthday" calls to staff, any staff, not just management. The call recipients typically are amazed and appreciative.
The situation brings to mind a meeting about workforce issues held in 2005 (I think) at St. John's College. Three cabinet secretaries were part of the meeting. Richardson addressed the group at lunch and belittled the cabinet secretaries, saying they were the least competent people in the room. For one of the three, I suspect Richardson was correct. But I found denigrating them in public to be astonishing and providing of an ugly clue to the character of the now out-going governor.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Richardson Tax Delusion Continues

The delusion is not Bill Richardson cut taxes while governor of New Mexico. The delusion is failing to recognize that he and his helpers raised bunches and bunches of other taxes. Today's Albuquerque Journal headline is, "UNM Fees Up 110 Percent Since '03." Student fees aren't tuition, the article reminds us. Fees go to athletics (ah, smell that football success..), the student union, groups and what the article called "other nonacademic expenses." Fees go to a government institution. By my perhaps expansive definition, taxes are any money going to the government.
Oh, and tuition has "only" increased 74% the past seven years.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

LFC Revenue Hearing Quiet, Brief. Deficit is $200 Million or $400 Million

A crowd appeared for this morning’s Legislative Finance Committee General Fund Revenue Projection hearing. All 16 LFC members were there. Eight other legislators had a chair at the front of Room 307 in the Capitol in Santa Fe. The temptation is to say that House Speaker Ben Lujan hovered in the corner. Lujan was in a corner, but not hovering, rather he sat, almost hidden. The corner was dark.
Room 307 wasn’t full, as in wall-to-wall full. The audience, scattered across the room, included lobbyists, state staff, and business types such as Albuquerque Chamber exec Terri Cole.
Some key elements of LFC revenue projection meetings the past few years were missing today. The administration’s presentation lacked the gratuitous claims that Gov. Bill Richardson had built a grandly better economy for New Mexico. There was no defense of the movie subsidies. While revenue shortage estimates from the executive and the LFC remain far apart, the differences come from making reasoned assumptions one way or the other, so there was no need for the presenters to suggest one or the other was smoking something in creating revenue assumptions.
After the presentation, two things did not happen: many questions from LFC members, many of them harsh, and lectures from LFC members to the effect that administration projections were fantasy. For example, after past presentations, Sen. John Arthur Smith (D-Deming) has commonly wondered about the logic behind administration projection. Rep. Don Bratton (R-Hobbs) has repeatedly observed that oil and gas price assumptions had no basis.
The only post-presentation question came from Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort and was about the effect on the state of the federal government raising income tax rates by not extending the Bush tax cut. Wilson’s point was that a huge proportion of the state’s business are very small, either proprietorships or subchapter S corporations and the owners pay taxes as individuals. LFC staff lacked an answer and will do an analysis, but suspected the effect would be nasty.
With just the one question and no lectures, the presentation ended 45 minutes short of the scheduled two hours. Surprise.
The harmony was unexplained. Maybe—speculating here—it had something to do with being in transition to a new administration, which hasn’t yet revealed plans. Brian Moore, incoming deputy chief of staff and legislative director for Gov.-Elect Susana Martinez, did stop by and shake a few hands as the hearing began. Moore was an LFC member during his time in the legislature.
The only laugh-line of the day came with the report that bringing New Mexico’s unemployment down to 4.5% (assuming no labor force growth) would require employing 37,343 people, “the approximate number that would normally attend a football game at the University of New Mexico’s Lobo Stadium.” The chuckles (and more) at this analogy elicited an explanation. “Well, maybe not this year.” (UNM’s stadium has a capacity of 39,224, had held 44,000 and properly is called, “University Stadium.”)
Forecast revenue remains well short of “maintaining current services,” as the wonks like to say. The shortage is around $200 million (LFC), or maybe $400 million (administration), depending on assumptions.
The only annoying item in the executive branch presentation was a comment attributed to UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. The comment, standard BBER doublespeak as I see it, was “that New Mexico’s economy continued to improve during the third quarter of 2010.”
The truth is that our state’s economy deteriorated at a slower rate during the third quarter. However, that is not improvement and any description of slower deterioration as “improvement” is misleading at best.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Doyne Farmer and Knowing the New Mexico Economy

Physicist Doyne Farmer of Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Institute made the first paragraph of a Wall Street Journal Page one story yesterday. He also had the final paragraph of the 54.5 inch story all to himself as well as 11 inches in the middle.
Who is this guy and what the hell is he doing on page one of the Wall Street Journal?
To start, Farmer is local, a New Mexican. He grew up in Silver City with fellow physicist Norman Packard who actually was born in Silver City, according to Wikipedia. I first learned about Farmer from another big time media outlet, Smithsonian magazine. The article, adapted from a chapter in the 1987 book, Chaos, detailed the undergraduate exploits of Farmer and Packard at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Roulette was one focus and behind the game was a set of ideas that became important to the development of non-linear dynamics or chaos theory.
Now Farmer is a professor at the Santa Fe Institute in Santa Fe. The Institute spun out of Los Alamos National Laboratory in an intellectual sort of manner and is the center of a world-wide network of people working on non-linear dynamics.
Maybe Farmer is locally unknown because he never has joined the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce or the Association of Commerce and Industry. Maybe his work is difficult. Certainly it wouldn’t be due to cluelessness on the part of local media. No. Never.
Farmer has even created jobs and wealth. Sale of Prediction Company to the Swiss Bank UBS, where Farmer was a founding partner, brought him what the Wall Street Journal article called “a small fortune.” Prediction Company ( is still in Santa Fe.
The point of the Farmer history here is that he is part of the intellectual infrastructure around our national laboratories. We do not know the size of this infrastructure, but put it together with the labs and it add to a huge and well-paid piece of the New Mexico economy. To disparage the national laboratories simply because the government provides the money is wrong.
The Wall Street Journal cares about Farmer because he and his “agent based model” are smack in the middle of the search for new economic models in reaction to the global economic mess. And it’s happening in New Mexico. But we don’t know that.