Thursday, June 23, 2011

Labor Force Drops 9,800, Albuquerque Leads Job Losses

People are dropping from New Mexico’s labor force far faster than jobs are appearing, says the Department of Workforce Services in the May job report, released this afternoon. That means the unemployment rate is down, but that’s the result of fewer people caring enough to say they are unemployed. New Mexico had the nation’s largest April-to-May unemployment rate drop with 0.7 percentage point decline to 6.9%.
Our labor force was 954,100 in May 2010 and 944,300 in May 2011.
New Mexico lost another 6,300 wage jobs from May 2010 through May 2011, making for 31 consecutive months of statewide job declines.
Albuquerque, now aided by Las Cruces, continues to be the black hole of the New Mexico economy. Albuquerque lost 3,700 jobs for the year with Las Cruces dropping another 1,700. Albuquerque added 800 jobs during May.
Santa Fe and Farmington both added a few jobs year-over-year and during May. The joint year-over-year growth was 500 jobs.
Albuquerque and Las Cruces dropping 5,400 jobs and Farmington and Santa Fe adding 500 means that the rural counties lost 1,400 jobs, year-over-year.
Two important segments of New Mexico’s basic economy added jobs during the year. Leisure and hospitality was up 1,500 jobs, or 1.8%. Mining employment grew by 1,300.
The growth leader again was education and health services with a 4,200 annual gain. The education part contains all sorts of instructional firms from private colleges such and St. John’s in Santa Fe to University of the Southwest in Hobbs to driving schools. Health care means all the obvious stuff including medical practitioners, hospitals, blood banks and ambulance firms, kidney dialysis, home health care and child day care companies, so long as they are in the private sector. But as you can see, government pays for much of the health sector.
The information segment, which contains movie production, continued to lose jobs, down 1,100 year-over-year For all those claiming sustainability or stability or something like that from the heavily subsidized movie business, here’s the DWS version of the truth. The “motion picture component is subject to large employment fluctuations based on film production activity. April, May, and June 2010 each produced an elevated jobs estimate, so another large over-the-year loss, possibly even greater than April’s, will
likely occur in June.”
Professional and business services, for some time the state’s weakest basic sector, showed a 100-job annual gain. The gain came in temporary help, hardly something to cheer.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sandia, LANL Win 7 R&D Awards

With seven 2011 R&D 100 Awards between them, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories continue their place among the nation’s research leaders. The annual awards, considered the Oscars of innovation, are given by R&D Magazine. The awards, announced today, honor the 100 leading technological advances of the year.
People who whine about the lab’s place in New Mexico—“…overdependence on the government…”—must not know about the awards. Or, worse, maybe they don’t care.
Sandia got four awards. LANL got four. I’ll let the respective press releases do the explaining.
Los Alamos National Laboratory:
NanoCluster Beacons: “NanoCluster Beacons are collections of silver atoms designed to illuminate when bound to nucleic acids, such as the DNA of specific pathogens. (T)hese beacons can be used to probe for diseases that threaten humans by identifying the nucleic acid targets that represent a person’s full genome, and allow for personalized medication. They can also be used in quantitative biology applications, such as counting individual molecules inside a cell.”
Revolutionizing Deepwater Oil-Well Drilling:
TAPSS, or Trapped Annular Pressure Shrinking Spacer, is a spacer fluid… to help prevent catastrophes in offshore oil-well drilling. Conventional spacer fluids are placed between oil well casings to secure the well and balance the pressure exerted by the surrounding geological formations. Most of these fluids expand when heated during drilling, causing potential pressure build ups and disastrous oil spills. TAPSS, on the other hand, shrinks when heated and can be used to offset any thermal expansion from the other fluids. TAPSS is formulated with enough methyl methacrylate to counteract the expansion of conventional spacer fluids. This new spacer is not difficult to use, is self-functioning, and requires minimal time to install.”
Thorium Is Now Green:
“Th-ING was developed… as a straightforward, cost-effective, and safe method to produce thorium. Thorium is an element capable of producing more energy than both uranium and coal using significantly lower quantities. This element is only slightly radioactive, making it an excellent candidate for a future sustainable energy source. It is so safe that it will never lead to a nuclear meltdown when used in a nuclear reactor.”
Sandia National Laboratories:
Microresonator Filters and Frequency References: Microresonators are small acoustic resonators that have highly precise sound and are manufactured using the same technologies that mass-produce integrated circuits (IC). Microresonator technology allows hundreds of filters and oscillators operating over a wide (32kHz – 10 GHz) frequency range to be realized on a single IC chip and monolithically integrated with radio frequency (RF) transistor circuits. They will perform RF filtering and frequency synthesis functions in next-generation wireless handsets, cell phones and other wireless devices, offering higher performance and frequency diversity in a smaller package and at a lower price than current technologies.
Ultra-high-voltage Silcon Carbide Thyristor: This DOE Energy Storage Systems project has developed an ultra-high-voltage silicon carbide thyristor. The semiconductor device allows next-generation “smart grid” power electronics system to be built up to 10 times smaller and lighter than current silicon-based technologies. These packaged-power devices are the world’s first commercially available, high-voltage, high-frequency, high-current, high-temperature, single-chip SiC-based thyristors. Their performance advantages are expected to spur innovations in utility-scale power electronics hardware and to increase the accessibility and use of distributed energy resources
Biomimetic Membranes for Water Purification: The new biomimetic membranes purify water through reverse osmosis (RO) technology. The selective, high-flux desalination membranes are formed of self-assembled nanopores tuned (with atomic-layer deposition) to mimic key structural features found in cell membranes. Advances in theoretical modeling were essential for deciphering how biological pore structures selectively remove ions, thereby guiding pore design for efficient new membranes. Nove l synthetic strategies were instrumental in fabricating highly ordered nanoporous membranes with tailor-made pore geometries and interior surfaces.
The Demand Response Inverter. (Jointly submitted this invention with Princeton Power Systems Inc.) The inverter is designed to reduce the levelized cost of energy of photovoltaic (PV) power by being more efficient, more reliable and more cost-effective than currently available inverters in the market. (T)he DRI will provide valuable grid-support functionality that encourages high penetration of PV power systems into the electrical grid and also provide added value for the system owner and local utility. The process (has) reached its commercialization stage

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lewis Mischaracterizes Marty Chavez, Cops Out on Red Light Debate

Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis, who is running for Congress, had an op-ed piece the other day advocating a referendum about keeping the red light cameras in Albuquerque.
Lewis’ argument has several big problems starting with a mischaracterization of former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez role in the red lights. Lewis says, "It was forced on our city by the previous mayor without any consultations with either citizens or the City Council."
In considering this, note that “mischaracterization” might be considered a really long word for “lie.”
No “consultations” with the city council? Well, the city council had to approve the contract with the red light guys, so it would seem they were consulted. In my brief Google search, I found one story indicating that the council approved a draft of the contract and that maybe Mayor Chavez played fun and games between the forced and the final contract. Whether that was true, or not, I’m not too worried about the details, but clearly the council was involved.
As to citizens, one blogger claimed “everyone” opposed the red lights. Equally, clearly, citizens were involved, maybe only the blogger and his best friend.
So we have a double mischaracterization.
Later, Chavez equivocated one way and then another about red lights as he contemplated a run to the Senate. Again, there was public dialogue.
While the red light cameras are a bit Big Brotherish, I see two substantial reasons to oppose them.
1. A retired police officer and friend is correct when he says that citizen / police interactions should be between people, not a person and a piece of equipment. That said, I suggest the lights are an example of the consequences when there are too few people. One goes to capital equipment to deal with the situation.
2. The red lights miss the point. The solution, I continue to believe, is to change the definition of running the light from entering the intersection after the red to still being in the intersection after the red.
For me neither point is persuasive.
Lewis makes two populist points worthy of consideration.
1. The whole thing is a conspiracy of insurance companies. Think about this. Insurance company CEOs sat around a table somewhere and chose to support red light cameras.
2. In advocating a referendum, he also advocates the multi-referendum California approach, which has resulted in the disaster that is California's government today. Of course, given the opportunity, people will oppose the cameras. The incentive of the people is to reduce chances of getting caught.
Lewis says, "On rare occasions, some questions should be decided by referendum." The red light cameras aren't even close. I refer you to California. What else, I wonder, might Lewis consider appropriate for a referendum? Leash laws? Pot-hole repair policy?
In our country, we have representatives. They vote and that should be that. If voters don’t like the vote, we have the next election. Elected officials are paid to make decisions and stick with those decisions, not to advocate cop-outs such as referendums. What is Lewis going to do in Congress, if elected, advocate national referendums?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Aztec, Corrales Win Home Price Comparison

The prices shown here are for four bedroom, two bath, single family detached homes in the given community.These communities are among 2,319 listed in the newest Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC Home Listing Report. To make the Report, a community had to have at least ten such homes listed between September 2010 and March 2011.
Aztec wins because it has the state's lowest prices. Corrales wins because it has the highest.
Price // Rank
Aztec 178,850, 527
Roswell 179,838, 543
Los Lunas 213,361, 927
Las Cruces 215,873, 956
Gallup 221,955, 1007
Alamogordo 232,385, 1092
Clovis 235,076, 1114
Edgewood 236,337, 1124
Rio Rancho 251,007, 1252
Belen 256,983, 1300
Farmington 275,964, 1429
Albuquerque 313,334, 1602
Ruidoso 359,978, 1762
Santa Fe 383,062, 1830
Tijeras 434,021, 1961
Sandia Park 600,290, 2188
Corrales 649,861, 2218

The nation’s lowest priced four-bedroom, two-bath homes are in Niagara Falls, NY, where the price is $60,820. The most expensive are in the land of sail boats and money, Newport Beach, CA, where prices average $2.54 million.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Home Sales Up in May, Prices Steady

It’s way, way premature to suggest anything positive is happening in the metro Albuquerque real estate market. Even so, a few glimmers appear in the May sales report posted this afternoon by the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors (www.gaar.com).
The sale of 632 single family detached homes closed during May. That was a 65-unit, or 11%, increase from April. Sales had dropped three units in April from March, but it is reasonable to say sales have climbed every month since bottoming in January at 363 units. Part of this has to be seasonal. In a normal market, sales increase from a winter low and peak during the summer, not that anything has been normal in Albuquerque real estate for several years.
The 2010 spring market distortion came from Barack Obama’s first time homebuyer tax credit, which pushed sales into the 2010 spring. This distortion is seen in May’s year-over-year 13.5% drop in sales.
There were 899 sales pending during May, after two months of pending sales at 903 units. With pending sales a key leading indicator of closed sales, for an increase in closed sales of any significance during June, the percentage of pending sales moving to being a closed sale with have to increase. Hmm….
The number of pending sales did jump 32.6% over May 2010. But that doesn’t count because May 2010 pending sales had dropped off a cliff following the end of the of the first time buyer credit.
A more important comparison comes with 2009. For pending and closed sales during 2011, all five months of the year show nice increases from 2009.
This happiness doesn’t mean health. The job numbers in metro Albuquerque continued down during April. No jobs, no home sales.
Another comparison with 2009 shows May sales up for homes priced under $160,000. Sales then drop for the five price groups up to $399,000. For the three price categories from $400,000 to $999,000, sales are the same or up from 2009. May 2011 showed no sales of home over $1 million.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Can't Take UNM Football Seriously

I just can’t take University of New Mexico football seriously.
The thought re-appeared the other day with an ESPN story ranking college football jobs by desirability.
Texas is number one. Oklahoma State is 20th. The list includes ten southern schools. (I count the Oklahoma schools as southern for this purpose.)
Three schools seem exceptions to any other commonality: Southern California, Notre Dame and the University of Oregon, which is in Eugene, also home to Nike and gazillions of dollars.
Five are in state capitols. Six are in places of some size such as Austin, Columbus, Ohio; and Tucson and Tempe. A dozen or so are in “college towns” such as Norman, Oklahoma, or Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Identity may be the theme linking these 20. The biggest headline on the LSU website (www.lsu.edu) says, “Love Purple. Live Gold.” The University of Florida (www.ufl.edu) says, “The Foundation for the Gator Nation.”
An ultimate expression of identity fixation, or football fixation anyway, comes in Lincoln, Nebraska, where football radio broadcasts are piped into the elevators of the Cornhusker Marriott, the fanciest hotel in town.
Another cultural impact clue comes with “Roll, Tide,” which seems to a common form of greeting in Tuscaloosa. Can you imagine greeting people in New Mexico with, “Go, Lobos?”
The University of New Mexico offers nothing similar, which is just fine with me. But that’s the point. UNM Is a commuter school. The relationship, for nearly everyone, is: Drive to campus, go to class, leave. UNM has no identity.
Rocky Long showed us doubters that UNM football could be competitive. Fans sometimes filled the stadium. The two years since his departure showed just how fragile was the base.
Thus it was laughable to read that UNM may join a lawsuit against the BCS, the college football championship charade. So long as public money doesn’t finance this nonsensical concept, I don’t care.
The third item motivating this modest meditation was reading that UNM coach Mike Locksley ranks second on the new list of coaches in greatest danger of losing their job.
This morning I shared the Locksley ranking with a fellow at the gym. Laughter in response to hearing Lockley’s ranking. “You mean there’s somebody worse,” the man said.
The laughter suggests that UNM football may be doing it’s basic job of entertaining.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Albuquerque Chamber Emails

Three yesterday. Three today. Absurd.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Griego Attempts Rebranding, Sort Of

State Sen. Eric Griego had an op-ed piece in this morning’s Albuquerque Journal. Griego is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for congress in the first district which means mostly Albuquerque.
Credit to Griego, he's not hiding who he is. That is, a class warrior against "this growing unfair distribution of income and unequal tax system..." and the savior of "children, the elderly, the poor and the disabled.." and throughout, in favor of raising taxes. The op-ed this morning does strike me as an attempt of sorts at repackaging.
Some observations:
About entitlements, all he says is, "..without decimating programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that most Americans support."
In the Wall Street Journal today, John Huntsman, while carefully avoiding saying he supports the Paul Ryan budget and associated reform proposals, makes the point that anyone not liking Ryan's approach has a moral obligation to suggest something else. Griego suggests nothing.
"Besides the recession, The Bush tax cuts are the major reason for our deficits," Griego said. A howler, to be sure.
Point one is a detail, that the recession has been over officially for two years. Point Two is that Heather Wilson, speaking March 25 at the Economic Forum, argued that we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. And she has PowerPoint slides to prove it.
When I hear words such as fair or unfair (unfair distribution, fair share), I always wonder what's fair? With Griego, I think it would equal incomes across the board and much higher taxes on "the rich." Note that the lower echelons of "the rich" include lots of people working for the national labs.
Griego heads the New Mexico outlet of Voices for Children. The New Mexico Voices is part of what calls itself a network and has affiliates (if that’s the right word) in every state plus the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. In New Mexico has been a leader in the pitch for higher taxes and the only really morally proper way (I may exaggerate.. slightly) to combat the state’s multi-year revenue / spending saga.
The Voices for Children material from the past few years will make rich fodder for a campaign.