Friday, July 29, 2011

Rural Counties Gain Jobs, Metros Lose

New Mexico added 2,400 wage jobs in June over June 2010, an insignificant 0.3% growth, all coming in the rural counties, according to figures released yesterday by the Department of Workforce Services. The four metro areas lost 4,300 jobs among them. That means the rural counties gained 7,700 jobs. This was the first time in 32 months for statewide year-over-year job growth.
The state also added 1,400 wage jobs between May and June on a seasonally not adjusted basis. Seasonally adjusted, the May-June increase moved to 3,700 jobs.
Albuquerque continued to lead the year-over-year metro job loss sweepstakes, down another 2,400. Las Cruces lost 1,300 jobs, year-over-year; Santa Fe, 400; Farmington, 200.
While the unemployment rate drop means little due to mostly reflecting people leaving the labor force, the county unemployment performance is worth one note. A year ago, nine counties claimed more than ten percent unemployed, including Torrance and Valencia counties in metro Albuquerque. The ten percent figure is down to three counties—Luna, 17.2%; Mora, 14.8%; and Guadalupe, 10.6%.
The wonders of movie making, rolling along in Albuquerque in June 2010, explain an 1,100 job drop in the to 8,200 jobs in the city’s information sector. As DWS says, the business is cyclical.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Three Rs Pitch Environmentalism and Taxes

Four “conservation activists” offered a defense of a federal program called the “Land and Water Conservation Fund” in the Albuquerque Journal today. That’s good, I suppose. Everyone can make their pitch.
What’s bad is their claim that the fund “is not paid for with your tax dollars.” The money comes from royalties on off-shore drilling. That, to me, means a tax. Further, to the extent that the drilling tax, er, royalty, raises the cost of oil, that tax is imposed on everyone.
Three of these activists claim membership in a group called Republicans for Environmental Protection. I have always thought this group stood for more regulation, higher taxes and the resulting lower economic activity.
Pretty much everyone is for environmental protection. The overall debate is long since done. The question is what the protection means in a given situation.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Road Notes: Quality, Rest Stops & Mowing

Twelve days, seven states and 3,000 miles maybe 85% on Interstates, we were pleased to return to New Mexico from southwest Wisconsin. Our new car, a Toyota Avalon purchased from Beaver Toyota, treated us well. The weather did not. Between the heat and the humidity, it was unpleasant. While loading our luggage in Wisconsin, I felt as if I was working in a sauna.
With one exception, we found that mostly the roads were acceptable. Sometimes stretches of road had deteriorated. Some times roads were being repaired.
The exception was I-76 from the Nebraska border into Denver. The right lane was so shattered that drivers routinely chose the left lane.
Going south from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I-380, heavily traveled every day, was jammed for miles by the closing of one lane. A Pawlenty for President RV was stuck in the jam. We have read that Pawlenty’s campaign is stuck, too.
Rest stops varied from nonassuming and functional to palaces. Iowa had a couple of serious palaces with signs offering several hundred words of explanation of the area’s significance. Texas, as one might expect, offers the best palace. The buildings serve as small museums. They perch on a hill on I-40 east of McLean with spectacular views.
New Mexico goes the other way.
North of Las Vegas along I-25 on the west side of the highway, there is a rest stop without facilities at mile marker 360 and another, with facilities, at mile marker 375. That’s 15 miles. Obviously the one without facilities should be closed.
Let’s just say that the other one needs work. We stopped there because we were going south. It was last Wednesday, July 20. The wood pillars supporting the portal are eroding. (I couldn’t find my camera, so there’s no photo. Sorry.) The signs designating the men’s side are hand lettered. A clue.
The report from the women’s side starts with a wobbly toilet. The lock is broken. The grate has come off the hand dryer, one of those hot-air things, exposing the wires that heat the air. The stall is coming unscrewed.
A part of the New Mexico Department of Transportation called District Maintenance Patrols is supposed to maintain rest stops.
Of the seven states we traveled, New Mexico and Colorado, where it rains the least, paid the most attention to mowing along the shoulders of the highways. Iowa, home to much rain, seems to have given up mowing. The delightful result is miles and miles of flowers along the highway.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mixed Signals From NM Economy, That's Good

Some OK things happened in the New Mexico economy between May and June, according to figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning.
But the not-so-OK bottom line is that without the education and health services sector, the state would still be losing wage jobs.
Overall, however, the signals appear mixed, a huge improvement over the uniformly poor performance of the past three years. (All the numbers here are seasonally adjusted.)
The two principal jobs numbers went in opposite directions. “Employment” was down 4,400 in June from May, but up 500 from June 2011. “Wage jobs,” a different and probably better quality number, was up 3,700 in June over May and also up—good news here—up 2,100 from June 2010.
More good news comes from the large and well-paid professional and business services sector, up in June to 93,100 jobs by a statistically insignificant 200 jobs from May but also up from April. Professional and business services is down 7,000 from the employment of 100,100 in June 2010.
The small but critical manufacturing sector appears stable over the past year at 28,600 jobs. Government employment has held at just over 198,000 jobs over the year.
Education and health services added 4,000 jobs in June for a total of 127,400, a performance that seems amazing to me. The sector is up 7,500 since June 2010.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Those Expensive Road Signs

I have talked—on and on, some might say—about the absurd road signs along our border, courtesy of the Richardson administration. A problem has been that the concept is difficult to describe. These photos of the signs on I-40 at Glenrio were shot a couple of weeks ago by my sister, Connie Matzen of Raleigh, NC.
There are three other signs, one at Hobbs, and two on I-10 south of Las Cruces. Total price, just shy of $1 million.

Abq Not Resilient. Other NM Metros Worse.

Albuquerque ranks 117 out of 361 metro areas on the Resilience Capacity Index produced by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California Berkeley. See That's not encouraging, but check the state's other metro areas. Farmington is 278. Las Cruces is 332. Santa Fe is 223.
The website says, "Regional resilience refers to the ability of a place to recover from a stress, either an acute blow, as in the case of an earthquake or major plant closing, or a chronic strain, as may occur with longstanding economic decline or unremitting rapid population growth. Conceiving of regions as capable of adaptation and transformation in response to challenges allows researchers and practitioners to understand the conditions and interventions that may make one place more or less resilient and why."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Road Notes: Mowing, Flowers and Corn

Mowing highway shoulders seems a useless exercise, especially in the case of interstates where the paved shoulder is the width of even large autos. I commented on this before. Mowing the highway shoulder seems especially useless in the desert, which is a little short of rain to grow plants next to those wide shoulders.
Highway folks in Iowa seem to have the same idea, no more mowing (or at least less). The bonus stems, so to speak, from the fact that it rains in Iowa with the result being abundant flowers along the interstate highways.
Sometimes the wind blows in Iowa in Wisconsin. Wind, we’re told by our Wisconsin expert, was the explanation for yesterday’s weird sight, miles of corn fields with the corn tilted, even pretty much laying flat. The big wind blew by at around 6 A.M. yesterday morning. Tilt-a-corn, I observed. Today, happily, the corn was back standing tall.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Not Much Happening in Santa Rosa

It was a warm morning today in Santa Rosa. The downtown streets were empty to a fair degree. The streets are amazingly wide, except at intersections where the anti-mobility cabal has bribed the city into building a concrete blob into the intersection to restrict movement. A good many stores were closed at 10:30 A.M.
What especially wasn’t happening was the morning agenda for the interim Economic and Rural Development Committee. It took a while to discover this. We were a bit late for the meeting, partly due to leaving Albuquerque a little late.
We were also late because we couldn’t find the building, the Blue Hole Dive Training and Santa Rosa Conference Center. We had an address, 244 4th Street, from the city’s website, It took a few minutes to determine the facility wasn’t on 4th Street. I figured to ask the Guadalupe County Communicator newspaper, but the office was locked. Plan B was the visitor center across the street. The woman gave us directions. After one missed turn, we got to a place that had a sign saying, “Blue Hole,” which is Santa Rosa’s renowned diving nirvana. There were folks in swim suits, but no legislator license plates, the usual sign of congregated legislators.
We sought more directions and were sent back to Blue Hole, where we had just been. This time we got out of the car and checked out the somewhat rundown appearing building next to Blue Hole. It was indeed a meeting facility. One room had tables arrayed in a manner common to committee hearing. The building was empty and locked. There was no sign on the building. We had not seen a mention of “convention center” on the sign at the parking lot entrance.
We watched families leaping into Blue Hole from a bluff perhaps 15 feet above the water. We chatted with a couple from Colorado as they donned diving gear. They prefer to dive in the Caribbean, but Santa Rosa is next best and much closer.
We then cruised downtown, saw some lovely stone buildings, bought a snack and left.
On the way out of town, for the first time we read the fine print on the website page about the conference center. It said, “Construction… is currently underway with a targeted completion date of August 2009… Opening date is still tentative.”
Road Notes:
Drivers in downtown Santa Rosa stopped to let us cross the street, even before we stepped from the curb. A nice, small town touch.
Interstate 40 has a construction project that seems to consist only of signs announcing the project.
Black blotches, presumably from grass fires, mostly small, dotted the roadside.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Hyperion Gets Money

Hyperion Power Generation Inc. ( of Los Alamos (and Denver, London and Washington, D.C.) has obtained additional capital, reports Commercial Break, a newsletter of Technology Ventures Corporation. The article said, "The company closed on its Series B round of capital from existing and additional private investors. HPG was formed to commercialize a small modular nuclear reactor design by
Los Alamos National Lab scientists. The reactor fills a previously unmet need for a transportable power source that is safe, clean, sustainable, and cost efficient."
The new capital will allow Hyperion to complete the final power plant design and to begin licensing and sales. When "in mass production," each reactor will produce power for 20,000 homes.
As mentioned in my May 2 post, Small modular reactors were a big topic at the uranium fuel cycle conference in Hobbs. But I didn't hear a mention of Hyperion, which still seems a bit odd.
Hyperion presented at the 2010 TVC Equity Capital Symposium. Find Technology Ventures Corporation at