Thursday, December 29, 2011

NM New Unemployment Claims Increase

For New Mexico the number of new claims for unemployment compensation are still increasing.

The good news is that the increase is smaller than before. The week ending December 17 is the latest for which figures are available. Claims increased 87 from the same week a year earlier.

For the seven weeks between November 5 and December 17, claims increased for three weeks and dropped for four. For the period, new claims grew by 510 over the previous year.

By contrast, for the week of December 19, 2009, new claims increased 215 over the same week in 2008. For the week of November 7, 2009, claims jumped by 691 from the 2008 week.

The number of new claims compared to a year earlier is considered a good proxy for labor market behavior.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Clovis' Only Two Bars Close

The only two bars in Clovis closed this summer. No idea what that means, if anything, beyond that they closed. The December 27 year-end wrap story from the Clovis New Journal notes that Clovis City Limits and Webb's Watering Hole "were the city’s only businesses dedicated solely to serving alcohol, though multiple other establishments offer a mix of dining and alcohol services."


Friday, December 23, 2011

Abq / Oklahoma City Analogy Doesn't Work

Albuquerque’s downtown advocates and Mayor Richard Berry have come in thrall of the perceived analogy with the perceived success of downtown Oklahoma City’s redevelopment, says Megan Kamerick, New Mexico Business Weekly senior reporter says in a December 20 post. Kamerick reported a December 14 speech by OKC Mayor Mick Cornett to the Downtown Action Team.

The trouble is the analogy doesn’t work. I can say this. I was born in Oklahoma City and lived there until age 13 when my parents had the good sense to come to Albuquerque. My dad worked in the Kerr McGee building downtown.

For, though, the good news about downtown OKC.

The renovated Skirvin Hotel, OKC’s oldest hotel and properly the Skirvin Hilton Oklahoma City, is wonderful. Reopened in 2007 after a multi-tens of millions renovation that included evicting bats, it offers 224 rooms amid art deco elegance. The rates, while not cheap, aren’t bad at $125 for a regular room using a AAA discount.

We checked out the Skirvin a couple of years ago on a whim. We were avoiding snow to the north. My one compliant was that the Internet connection was an extra charge, a petty approach given the overall class of the place.

As a sort of cultural bonus, when I explored the lobby after checking in, I found a group of tall black guys hanging out and wearing warmups. Finally a t-shirt provided a clue. Worn by a white guy, it said, “Phoenix Suns.”

For Albuquerque the analogy doesn’t work because Albuquerque’s downtown has not been the central focus for the city since World War II, in other words, since Albuquerque became large. Albuquerque is a series of urban nodes. Downtown is a much better place than 30 years ago. But Albuquerque downtown is not, nor will it be the central focus of the metro area.

OKC’s downtown was created as the central focus of the city, remained so a long time and now has been somewhat restored. Downtown OKC has some other neat stuff. But the real world intrudes. When we visited, the old 1930s First National Bank building offered an emptiness in the former banking floor with its marble and art deco metal work.

With oil and other locally based firms, OKC has a driving entrepreneurial culture that doesn’t exist in Albuquerque. What that means is OKC has a kind of corporate oligarchy not found here. If I remember correctly, the firm driving the North Dakota gas boom is based in Oklahoma City.

In 1995 the Murrah Building bombing brought OKC an emotional focus that I hope Albuquerque can avoid.

With big time football Oklahoma City has a cultural focus that happily doesn’t exist in New Mexico. (Boomer Sooner.)

OKC has other huge socio-economic differences with Albuquerque, a comparison we win. Then there is the lousy weather, which I don’t think counts for the purposes here.

OKC has raised something over $1 billion from tax hikes to pay for all this.

While in OKC on our Skirvin whim, we drove the well-publicized Brickyard area. Vacant land was the dominant sight.

One other cool thing. The area around 23rd Street and Classen Blvd., about two miles from downtown and my family’s stomping ground through the 1970s, has become the Asian center, marked by a median sign on Classen Blvd. The ultra-establishment Gothic-design First Presbyterian Church is two blocks from an Asian big box store.

A couple of miles from the Asian center and also a couple of miles from downtown lies the neighborhood where my mom lived in the 1920s. It’s a borderline slum.

If you are driving I-40 through Oklahoma, stay at the Skirvin. Take a little time to visit the Murrah Building monument, called the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. (

Otherwise, be very careful with any claimed Albuquerque analogy.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Private Sector Wage Jobs Increase in Abq

The Department of Workforce Services released metro area job totals this afternoon. Before getting to those numbers, a correction. In the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics posted Tuesday, I messed up the trade sector performance. Trade employment increased 3,100 instead of dropping 3,100 as I wrote. Sorry.

The DWS analysis has a new and useful emphasis on the private sector performance as compared to the government.

New Mexico had added jobs for six months, DWS says, not many each month but the trend is nice.

Albuquerque continues to look a little less bad, if not quite up to being “better.” Though the wage job total dropped yet again from year ago, private sector wage jobs increased on a year over year basis for the first time since January 2008. The 1,200 disappeared government jobs offset the increase.

Leisure and hospitality wage employment in Albuquerque grew 1,600 from November 2010 to November 2011. With 39,300 jobs, the sector is Albuquerque fourth largest private sector. Outside Albuquerque the sector lost 100 jobs, dropping the statewide gain to 1,500.

While restaurants and bars provide most leisure and hospitality jobs, DWS says the sector includes hotels, performing arts and spectator sports; museums, parks, and historical sites; and amusement, gambling, and recreation. These businesses attract discretionary spending. People don’t have to go to restaurants, museum or casinos. Something good is happening here, even if metro job totals don’t suggest a source of the money.

In Las Cruces wage jobs declined by 500 year over year. Private sector employment grew by 400 and government lost 900.

Santa Fe added 300 wage jobs from November 2010 to November 2011.

Farmington added 900 jobs over the year.

Families Avoid NM

Families see little opportunity in New Mexico, American families anyway. That’s my conclusion from state population figures for July 1, 2011, released yesterday by the Bureau of the Census ( The New Mexico population is 2,082,224, up 23,044, or 1.1% from the April 2011 census.

The family opportunity problem for New Mexico, as I see it, stems from the small numbers for “domestic migration” in the census estimates. Migration refers to people moving to the state instead of being born here. They can come from within the U.S. (domestic) or from without (international).

Just over 70% of New Mexico’s population increase since the census came from “natural increase,” the excess of births over deaths. Of the rest, the migration, 2,202, or 9.6% of the total increase, came from domestic migration. There were 4,559 international migrants.

With positive domestic migration, New Mexico as in the good minority along with 22 other states, but barely. Only Alaska had fewer domestic migrants. Alaska’s population is a third of New Mexico’s. Delaware, with less than half of New Mexico’s population, attracted more domestic migrants.

New Mexico's population ranked 36th nationally. The percentage growth was 16th and the number growth was 36th. All very nice until one considers all those new babies, the source of our growth.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wage Jobs Increase a Little

On a seasonally adjusted basis, New Mexico’s decline in unemployment rate—2.1 percentage points—led the nation for the year from November 2010 to November 2011, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics ( figures released today. Florida was second with a 1.9 point drop.

Wage job totals are up in New Mexico over the past year, not enough to be statistically, but less statistically insignificant than a few months ago.

Statistically significant seasonally adjusted changes in employment, all of them increases, came in 25 states. New Mexico was not in the group. Nor did New Mexico make the group of 13 with statistically significant employment changes from October to November.

The labor force in New Mexico has increased by 5,000 since September. As of November, the labor force showed a 19,900 drop to 935,900. Unemployment in the state, steady at just over 61,000 the past three months, is down 21,100 since November 2010.

The seasonally adjusted statewide wage job total was 804,600 for November, flat since September, and up 6,600 year over year. The increase since November 2010 is 0.83%.

Sector performance for the past November, October and September 2011 and since November 2010 includes:

Construction: 3 months, flat at around 39,500. One year, down 5,900, or 13%.
Manufacturing: Flat since November 2010 at just over 29,000.
Trade, Transportation and Utilities: 3 months, flat at just over 137,000. One year, up 3,100. (12/22: The trade performance was originally reported as a drop of 3,100. Oops.)
Professional and Business Services: 1 year, flat at about 92,500.
Education and health services: 3 months, flat at about 127,000. One year, up 6,100 or 5.1%.
Leisure and hospitality: One year, flat at about 85,000.
Government: One year, down 3,600, or 1.8%. 3 months, steady at about 196,500.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Media Mentions: Spaceport and Gov. Martinez

New Mexico got a couple of nice national media mentions yesterday, one in passing, one a full page.

The passing mention came from Richard Branson, English billionaire entrepreneur and leader of all things Virgin, airlines, music operations and, for New Mexico’s purpose, Virgin Galatic, prime tenant at Spaceport America, located on the mesa between Las Cruces and Truth or Consequences.

The interview with the Wall Street Journal went to space travel as a topic. The mention was brief, just a linkage of Virgin Galactic and the Spaceport.

Branson predicts the first commercial space flight from Spaceport America will happen in about a year. He fudged a bit, though, but consider the fudge in light of his record.

The full page was an article in the December 17 “The Economist.” ( The headline says, “Susana Martinez shows how Republicans might one day woo Latinos.”

The premise of the article is this. “Her Democratic predecessor, Bill Richardson, is of Mexican descent on his mother’s side. And Brian Sandoval in Nevada is both Latino and Republican. But Ms Martinez is the only governor who is simultaneously Hispanic, female and Republican. As such, she seems well on the way to embodying the party’s hoped-for future as a conservative movement that can appeal to, rather than repel, Latinos, America’s fastest-growing main ethnic group.”

Martinez is described as “tough and wonkish.” Well, one of two ain’t bad.

The article doesn’t quite say Martinez has no overall philosophy beyond being roughly conservative. But the suggestion is there.

The correspondent, as The Economist calls it’s reporters, missed a couple of things. Our “remarkably informal” capitol “is nicknamed (the Roundhouse) in homage to old Navajo hogans,” the article said.

I didn’t check that assertion, which is new to me. I think the Roundhouse, built roughly in the shape of the Zia sun, is called “the Roundhouse” because it is round. I have never heard a hogan connection, old hogan or new hogan.

Also, the correspondent claimed the legislature “still tilts Democratic.” Tilts?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

$90,000 & 5% Purchasing Preference

That how much was saved by not binding the gross receipts tax forms package mailed recently. "Little things add up," said Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla when I spoke to her today at the annual legislative outlook conference of the New Mexico Tax Research Institute.

Padilla was at the TRI meeting to provide a briefing on the progress of state businesses applying (or reapplying) for the 5% preference given to New Mexico-based firms doing business with the state.

The deadline is December 31. As of today, all of 90 businesses have applied out of an expected 10,000.

Probably it would be best to call 827-0951 to check out this new deal. Or call your CPA.

Padilla said to go to the department's website,, and search for in-state preference. I did and with some further detective work got to "APPLICATION FOR PREFERENCE" to "qualify as a Resident Business or Resident Contractor."

I was good. I didn't argue the inefficiencies of the 5% subsidy, er, preference. That's for another day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

November Home Prices Hit 2011 Low

Prices hit the lowest level of the year during November for single family detached homes in metro Albuquerque. The 492 sales closed during the month represented a 74 unit, or 13% drop from October. Pending sales for the month, 746, showed a 5%, or 39 units, drop from October. Of the 785 sales pending during October, 63% turned into closed sales.

November sales fared better when compared to November 2010. Closed sales grew 5%. Pending sales jumped 27%.

None of the price comparisons are happy.

For the median price, $160,000 for November, the next lowest 2011 price was $162,000 during March. The November median price was 4.2% lower than October and down 10% from November 2011.

The next lowest average price was $196,321 in April. The November average, $194,830, was down 3.5%, or $7,044, from October and dropped 11.6% from the November 2010 average of $220,453. The November average price was pushed up by the sale of three homes for $1 million or more during the month. No million dollar homes sold during November 2010.

The detached homes sold during November spread fairly evenly across the six price groups between $100,000 and $249,000. Five of the six groups showed sales between 53 and 65 units. The exception, homes priced between $180,000 and $199,000 has 36 sales.

The Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors released the November sales report this week.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Business Weekly Words Trash Union Pacific

The headline and first paragraph of a "news" story follow.

Headline: Union Pacific carves up the desert
First Paragraph of Story: More than four dozen tractors, bulldozers and other heavy machinery are ripping up desert shrub just west of the Santa Teresa Airport in southern New Mexico.

No, this isn’t some Sierra Club publication. The headline and paragraph come from a story in the current New Mexico Business Weekly. I found the story, part of it, online in the current edition. (

The story is about the site work being done on the new Union Pacific multi-modal facility near Santa Teresa. I think that is the topic. The story appears in the Premium Content section. Being unwilling to pay, I only saw the beginning.

“Carves up the desert?” Well, that’s bad, of course. For a business to “carve up the desert,” that’s bad, too. So business is bad. See where this goes... All in the choice of words.

With the words chosen, media people point the story. In this case, a business publication pointed the story in a manner that is anti-business. That's a sin.

How about: “Massive site preparation underway for Union Pacific project.”

You know, some words not laden with “business is bad” values.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sandia Technical Talent Misused In Ethanol Push

Engineers are practical. That’s the indication from Dawn Manley, an engineer and “transportation fuels expert,” according to a Sandia National Laboratories new release issued today.

Manley works at Sandia’s Livermore, California, branch. In October she spoke to California’s Senate Transportation and Housing Committee about what the news release headline called “practical ways to reach new energy goals,” in particular use of ethanol. My objective here is neither to criticize Ms. Manley, or to make fun of her. Rather, the issue is the yoking of Sandia’s world-class technical staff to discredited policy goals such as using ethanol as a fuel.

A higher truth or, perhaps, practicality exists regarding ethanol as a fuel. Ethanol is a terrible fuel because it is short on carbon atoms. That means it is inefficient. Expanding ethanol production, which is made from corn, brings collateral effects. Two are displacement of forest land for new corn fields and higher tortilla prices in Mexico.

In allowing the presentation, Ms Manley’s bosses may have been being practical. Sandia gets lots money research various energy topics. Another player worth consideration as a practical matter is Sandia’s ultimate boss, Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu, former director of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab which is general neighborhood of Livermore.

A proper, practical use of Sandia’s technical prowess would be to stop consideration of ethanol as a fuel.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Qwest Ended. (Century) Link Severed

In mid-October we finally got around to completely cutting the cord with Qwest/Century Link.

We dumped the dial-out part of the landline service a couple of years ago. But we kept the telephone company relationship because of our Internet needs and partly to keep the fax, which Susan still needed for business.

Then our ISP, Southwest Cyberport of Albuquerque ( added a service where SWCP could supply the DSL service. Our Internet service on the hardware end, the phone company end, that is, was getting continually worse. All SWCP needed was to install the connection and have Century Link to install the line. We got that done.

The next step was to unlink. Susan called Century Link about 6 P.M. October 18. No one was home, a spooky prospect for someone needing customer service. Folks were home the next day and our ever increasing land line bill was ended.

We are happy. SWCP’s service is wonderful.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lacking Right to Work Costs NM

Any national right to work law mapping of states fits New Mexico and Colorado with a horse collar.
Right to work laws allow employees of unionized companies to choose to not join the union and, therefore, to not pay union dues.
Wyoming has right to work. So do the states stacked on Arizona and Texas to the Canadian border.
Unions are useful, I believe. But I favor right to work because anyone with a monopoly gets lazy and fails to serve the customers, in this case union members.
I haven’t paid much attention to New Mexico not having right to work because private sector unions don’t matter much here. Pushing right to work in New Mexico has always seemed the cause of far right fanatics devoted to lost causes.
However, there is a change in the big world. Site selectors, the consultants who help companies locate new and branch plants and offices are using lack of right to work as an initial criterion for eliminating states from location consideration. Lacking right to work immediately zaps New Mexico from consideration by about a quarter of companies.
That matters.