Friday, March 30, 2012

NM Adds Jobs for 7th Month

New Mexico’s job behavior trend has become established, perhaps really a trend. The jobs are coming—just a few and slowly. But the jobs are coming. February marked the seventh consecutive month of increase in the wage job totals, the Department of Workforce Services reported this afternoon. All the numbers reported here will be of the non seasonally adjusted variety unless otherwise noted.

On a year-over-year comparison, February brought us 5,100 more wage jobs statewide, a 0.6% increase from the 795,700 jobs in February 2011. The February 2012 job total is 800,800.

Those 5,100 jobs represent a net of 6,000 more private sector jobs, year-over-year, and a 900-job loss in government.

New Mexico’s small job changes are insignificant, statistically, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Well, the BLS didn’t report the insignificance, but New Mexico didn’t make the monthly lists of significant changes in employment and unemployment.

The labor force grew in February, up 6,600 over the year. This placed New Mexico in the happy and unusual position of being a positive exception to the performance of others, the mountain region in this case. The mountain states showed a 29,200-person drop in the labor force from February 2011 to February 2012.

All four metro areas added employees in February, year over year, another change from the recent past. The metro growth total was 4,643, just over two-thirds of the state employment increase of 6,851. (Standard disclaimer: Employment is different from wage jobs.) Albuquerque added 2,082; Farmington, 447; Las Cruces, 788; Santa Fe, 1,326.

Among the sectors, year over year, mining and logging (which is nearly all mining and includes oil and gas) led the growth of basic industries with a 2,500 wage job increase, making for 11% growth. Leisure and hospitality followed with 1,800 new wage jobs.

Educational and health services, which I always associate with government (think Medicaid), led all sectors with 5,700 new wage jobs.

Retail added 1,100 jobs over the year while construction lost 1,100.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Reasons for a Complete Review of the Constitution of New Mexico

This was prepared for the Future of New Mexico town hall held by New Mexico First that is concluding as I write. The fact sheet was perhaps 30 of those attending and staffing the town hall. So far as constitutional revision making it into the town hall recommendations, the idea didn't get far.

However, the logic was shared with lobbyists, former governors, an elected official or two, recognized leaders and regular folks committed enough to go through the town hall process which can become an ordeal.

What next? Who knows?

Reasons for a Complete Review of the Constitution of New Mexico
1. “New Mexicans have a chronic problem with their organic law.” - “Governing New Mexico,” P. 26. Organic law means the constitution.
2. Frequent amendment of constitutions is a bad idea for a number of reasons, James Madison argues in Federalist, No. 49. Frequent amendment deprives the government of stability, he said.
3. The New Mexico Constitution was first amended in November 1911—before statehood.
4. Thirty amendments were adopted in 1949. One or two amendments have been adopted in most general elections since then.
5. The most recent constitutional convention was in 1969—43 years ago. The proposed constitution lost by only three percent despite the inept campaign in favor. - “New Mexico Government,” P. 257
6. Bloat. The constitution began with 21,227 words. It now has about 36,600.
7. All those words bring massive detail. The United States Constitution created the Supreme Court and told Congress to figure out the rest.
The detail in the New Mexico Constitution goes down to Metro Courts and includes Supreme Court meeting times.
8. We have two amendment criteria. One applies to nearly all the constitution—pass the amendment through the legislature and the people vote. Majority wins. The other is the same, except that only an ultra super majority wins. That’s just bizarre.
9. The average, basic, uncontested constitution amendment costs $100,000.
10. Inefficiency. Amending the constitution was required to change the name of the highway department.
11. Reasonable change is prevented. Sen. Michael Sanchez proposal to change the election date for school boards was approved overwhelmingly but was thwarted because of not quite meeting the onerous amendment procedure.
12. Fear is the substantive reason expressed in opposition to constitutional review. This fear covers both the people and “special interests.”

The requirements of a constitutional convention are specified in great detail in Article 19, Section 1.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Yesterday's Wind: Tree Down, Airport Can Provide Better Information

My neighbor’s aged cottonwood came down about noon yesterday. My guess is that the tree was about 60-years-old, planted around 1950 when the Early this morning she and a man with a pickup were standing in the street contemplating the tree. By the end of the day, a man with a chain saw was hard at work. My neighbor said she has offered friends free firewood.

Our other adventure with the wind came from my sister’s ultimately successful attempt to fly here from Santa Francisco via Los Angeles.

We got to the airport about 4:45 P.M. to pick her up, about 2.5 hours later than her original expected arrival. The airport was pretty much empty. Nearly all the people leaving the gate area were leaving because their outgoing flight had been cancelled.

The arrival/departure screen showed her flight as “delayed” but then had an “o” (or perhaps a zero) after the word “delayed.” Call it a footnote. Other flights also had footnotes, numbers, a one or a two. The screen offered no explanation of the footnotes.

Before going to the airport, I had checked the airport website, hoping for a general status announcement. No luck.

We found this morning, courtesy of the Albuquerque Journal, that all arriving flights were diverted starting at about 11:00 A.M. Arrivals resumed around 5:00 P.M. The cluster of people waiting at the security gate lacked this information. Further, given that everyone was focused on one flight, the pattern didn’t emerge that everyone was delayed. I noticed many flights were delayed, but since I only cared about my sister’s flight, I didn’t pick up the pattern.

Eventually a cluster of us became identified as waiting for the same flight, the one my sister was on. Smartphones were employed and the group soon concluded that if the flight wasn’t in Amarillo, it was headed there. Knowing it would be more than an hour before the plane made it to Albuquerque, we went home.

On the way home, my sister called to say the flight was indeed in Amarillo and was getting gas. Fuel had run low while circle Albuquerque. We estimated an arrival time, which proved surprisingly accurate.

Once the flight arrived, one more bottleneck appeared—getting luggage. Many planes and many people arrived at about the same time. It took 45 minutes for her to get her bag.

We noted, we were unable to get general information—dudes, no planes are coming in. This wasted much time.

A simple solution in addition to website posting (Hey, that’s what websites are for) would be to install a couple of those often annoying electronic signs, say at one of the security gate and another above one set of escalators. Somewhere, also, those schedule screen footnotes should be explained.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

DWS Revisions Take Job Totals Up and Down

Over the January 2011 to January 2012 year, Santa Fe (+1,400) and Farmington (+1,100) added wage jobs, The Department of Workforce Services reported late Friday the 16th. The other two metro areas lost with Albuquerque down 400 and Las Cruces down 100.

My column mentioned the annual benchmark process. The new DWS report uses “available full-count” job numbers from April 2010 to June 2011. The comments in this post all draw upon the new issue of DWS Labor Market Review. Starting from July 2011, DWS has “re-estimated” using sample data.

During the January 2011 to January 2012 year, we added 5,900 jobs. This makes six months of year-over statewide job gains after 32 months of losing jobs in nearly all month. The state’s employment to population ratio is at an all time low.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, employment in New Mexico peaked at 852,900 in September 2008 and 28 months later in January 2011 hit a low of 795,700, just as Bill Richardson got out of Dodge (er, Santa Fe).

For metro Albuquerque, the benchmark revisions show the city as not quite the economic block hole I’ve been calling it. Revised Albuquerque 2011 employment totals are 2,600 higher than previously report, meaning that Albuquerque employment was flat for the year instead of dropping. Professional and business services is now said to have increased by 800 for the year instead of dropping, because, DWS says mysteriously, “due to non-economic administrative reporting changes that reclassified existing employment.”

Metro Las Cruces got the same sort of news from the revisions. Instead of being down most months of 2011, employment was up an average of 1,100 for each month the year.

The revisions took Santa Fe the other way—down. Wage job total were dropped by around 600 jobs per month for 2011. Even so, wage employment was up 1,400 in Santa Fe for the year, netting an 1,800 private sector job increase with 400 fewer government jobs.

Farmington’s 2011 also increased with the revisions—an average of 200 jobs each month. Farmington added 1,100 wage jobs during 2011, a solid 2.3% gain.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Clovis, Portales, Tucumcari Newspapers Sold

Based on a story in today's Wall Street Journal, I was going to say that the newspapers in Clovis, Portales and Tucumcari might be for sale. The story said that Freedom Communications, Inc., is exploring the sale of most of its 24 daily newspapers.

I was also going to point readers to Dirks, Van Essen & Murray of Santa Fe, the nation's leading newspaper broker.

Google, however, saved me embarrassment.

A January 31 release from Freedom Communications announced the sale of the Clovis News-Journal "and its associated publications, including the Portales News-Tribune and Tucumcari's Quay County Sun to Clovis Media Inc." which is based in Sheridan, Wyoming. The deal was expected to close by the end of February, the release said. The release is ported at the New Mexico Press Association (

A CNJ story reported that the new owners took over on February 17.

The officers of Clovis Media are Gary W. Stevenson, Susan Stevenson and Garry S. Ellis, says the Public Regulation listing. The address is 176 N. Main St. Ste. 1, Sheridan, Wyoming, 82801. For the geographically challenged among us, Sheridan, Wyoming, population around 14,000, is in the center of the state, near the Montana border.

The News Journal now has a Facebook page (

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Albuquerque Homes Sales Up, Prices Not

Single family home sales in metro Albuquerque showed a very nice increase during February, according to the monthly market report released this week by the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors.

The price behavior for detached homes was different with median prices continuing down and average prices up just a hair from January—$813, or 0.4%, to $195,165, but down 11.4% from February 2011. The median price, $161,500 for February, was down 2.1% from January and six percent from February 2011. The average price got some help from the sale during the month of one home for $1 million (or more) and three homes in the $750,000 to $999,000 price group.

The sale of 506 detached homes closed during February was the best February since 2008. The performance was 23% above both January 2012 and February 2011.

The pending sales figure jumped to 928 during February, the highest since June 2011 when there were 934 sales pending and a third above February 2011. It was March and April 2010 when pending sales last broke 1,000 for a month. That period was driven by the Obama administration’s first time home buyer tax credit.

The February sales and price performance for condominiums and townhouses followed the detached homes. February sales beat January 2012 and February 2011 by good margins. Both average and median prices were down from January 2012 and February 2011.

While one has to begin to feel a little better about the Albuquerque real estate market, homes aren’t exactly flying off the figurative shelves, even with the decline in the number of homes offered for sale. February marked the fourth month that it has taken an average of 87 days for a home to sell.

Looking ahead to the March sales report, the February pending sales of 928 suggests another decent month. A year ago, 80.1% of February pending sales turned into closed sales during March. February’s closed sales of 506 were 60.5% of January pending sales. If 65% of the February pending sales turn into closed sales during March that would be 603 closed sales. We will see.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

January Job News: Good, Bad, Insignificant

There was good news, bad news and news of no significance in new job numbers today from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and the state’s Department of Workforce Services.

The insignificance was in the size of the changes from January 2011 to January 2012. The insignificance was both in terms of size—the changes being small—and statistical—the changes also being too small to matter.

As one example, we added all of 300 people to the labor force between December and January, the BLS said, bringing the January labor force total to 920,800 on a seasonally unadjusted basis. The change is both small and statistically insignificant.

That the labor force grew, however slightly, was a switch, a bit of good news.

We added 5,900 wage jobs on a seasonally unadjusted basis and lost 800 with the adjustment. The 5,900 increase is three quarters of one percent.

A piece of very nice news came from DWS. All four of the state’s metro areas added employment, year over year, something that so rare as to be almost forgotten. During 2010, only Santa Fe added jobs.

The four-county Albuquerque metro gained employment, up 1,892. (Note that employment is a slightly different concept from wage jobs. Confusing.) Santa Fe was up 1,496, with Farmington adding 1,207 (a healthy 2.4% jump) and Las Cruces growing by 352.

The metros dominated the statewide employment growth of 6,062, providing 4,947 of the employees. The bad news is that 16 counties lost employment, from January 20120 to January 2011. Most losses were just a few—154 in Socorro County. Rio Arriba County was the loss leader with employment down 779 or 4.4%. January showed employment of 16,985 in Rio Arriba.

Lea County scored the employment good news with growth of 2,030 for a 7.7% increase. Now that’s healthy.

UNM Law Is 69th

The law school at the University of New Mexico ties for 69th nationally with six other schools, according to the new U.S. News and World Report. The other 69ers are Seton Hall and the Universities of Cincinnati, Denver, Miami, Pittsburgh and Tennessee-Knoxville.
The top five are Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Columbia and Chicago.
U.S. News ranks 146 schools and lists another 50 or so without a ranking. Montana and South Dakota tied for 145.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Feldman: Arnold-Jones Video Bill "A Great Thing"

Albuquerque legislators Sen. Dede Feldman and Rep. Jimmie Hall briefed the Albuquerque Press Women about the recent session of the legislature today.

Feldman, a Democrat and a liberal, said she could speak frankly because of her decision to not run for reelection. She did, to fair degree, saying, for example, that the whole purpose of redistricting was “to preserve incumbent seats.”

Feldman did a video-the-senate bill because of "Janice Arnold-Jones forcing the issue and that was a great thing."

For Arnold-Jones, this seems not a "bipartisan work across the aisles" situation, but rather one of having ideas that are so good and so provocative that Ds are forced to go along. Now running for Congress, she can brag on that.

Legislators had a little “new money” to work with. Note that “little” is on the scale of things, around $250 million. The policy dilemma was choosing between tax breaks, Gov. Susana Martinez’ preference, and “filling holes.” “We did a little of each,” Feldman said.

Martinez’ line-item vetoes in the budget “kind of revealed values.” A program for home-delivered meals got axed, for example, by the clearly heartless Governor.

Feldman disapproved of Martinez’s veto of many “pork” projects, small capital projects allowing legislators to make constituents happy. But Bill Richardson vetoed a lot of pork, she said. “He did it vindictively, too,” she said.

During the session, education provided “the biggest piece of tension between the governor and the legislature,” Feldman said.

Rep. Hall didn’t push the partisan framework. Rather, he offered insights about the day one retirement announcement of House Speaker Ben Lujan. The announcement “colored the rest of the session,” Hall said. “The moment he said that, (it) created a power vacuum.”

Sunday, March 11, 2012

James Madison: Frequent Constitutional Amendments Are Bad Idea

Frequently referring “constitutional questions to the decisions of the whole society” is a bad idea, wrote James Madison in Number Forty-Nine of the Federalist Papers.
“Every appeal to the people would carry an implication of some defect in the government…,” Madison said.

Much more important, Madison said, is that frequent incremental amendments “would not answer the purpose of maintaining the constitutional equilibrium.”

The first ten amendments to the United States’ Constitution—the Bill of Rights—resulted from a deal to get states to approve the constitution. Since the ten passed, only 17 more amendments have made it to the constitution. Two of those, implementing and removing prohibition, cancelled one another.

I wonder what Madison would think of New Mexico’s constitution.

Our constitution started in 1910 with 21,227 words. By 1949 it had been amended 30 times, according to “Governing New Mexico.” The first amendment passed in November 1911. Before statehood!

These days, one or two amendments seem to pass every general election, meaning every two years. The constitution is up to 36,683 words, according to Word’s count of my copy downloaded from the Secretary of State.

“The desire to protect the document from radical changes,” “Governing” says, motivated the constitutional convention to create onerous amending procedures for four sections which became know as the “unamendables.” Article 19 specifies amendment procedures and then says, Oh by the way, these four sections get special treatment. They are Sections One and Three of Article VII on elective franchise, and Sections Eight and Ten of Article XII on education.

New Mexico First Town Hall and the Constitution

The unamendables became part of my mental constitutional woodwork a few years ago. Recently, a friend pointed out just how strange and inappropriate it is to have two amendment criteria. My friend is correct.

This being lost in the woodwork I think may explain why the talented and totally well-intended folks putting together the coming New Mexico First Town Hall ( failed to incorporate the constitution into the background document provided to participants. They are used to the present situation.

As a theme, the town hall uses these words, “Learning from our past. Planning our future.” The notion of leaving the constitution out of “learning from our past”—even if it wasn’t a mess—is beyond me.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Big Uranium Story: URI Acquiring Neutron

For the big business story of the past few days, Albuquerqueans would have to go to the Cibola County Beacon ( or New Mexico Business Weekly online ( Those bound to Albuquerque print media, well, tough luck.
Donald Jaramillo, Beacon managing editor, began the story this way.
“CIBOLA COUNTY - Uranium Resources, Inc., announced last week that it has entered into a merger agreement to acquire 100 percent of the equity capital of Neutron Energy, Inc. in a stock-for-stock transaction.
At the same time as the transaction, an affiliate of Resource Capital Fund V L.P. (“RCF”),
will provide $20 million that will be used to retire the majority of Neutron’s outstanding debt owed to RMB Australia Holdings Limited (“RMB”) in exchange for URI common stock.”
The combination brings together two of the bigger players in the nascent but struggling reappearance of uranium mining in New Mexico.
The Beacon story continued, “Neutron is a private uranium exploration and development company with significant assets located in the Grants Mineral Belt of New Mexico, including the Cebolleta and Juan Tafoya projects that include 10,814 acres. The Cebolleta property
contains 6.68 million tons of mineralized material while the Juan Tafoya property contains 3.81 million tons. These properties are located on private lands and are planned to be mined using conventional techniques.
Matt Lueras, URI vice president, said, “The merger increases our presence in Cibola County. Now we have direct interest.” Although all of URIs mining interests were outside the county before the merger, the company regularly met with officials in Grants.”
There is much more. You will have to check the websites.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Writing In Not An Option In Sunland Park, Too Bad

In a way the Sunland Park city election debacle is pretty funny—an evolving small town he said-she said-he said soap opera of misbehavior, comedy, extortion charges and sex in the form of a video of mayoral candidate Gerardo Hernandez getting a lap dance from a topless woman in his campaign office and nuzzling the woman’s breast.
The people of Sunland Park will figure this out and, maybe, someday, recover from being public fools.
For now, though, with the election set of this coming Tuesday, March 6, Sunland Park voters lack recourse to the obvious solution—a write-in campaign. By that I mean a true write-in—with pencils and pieces of paper—the sort that first sent Joe Skeen to Congress.
True write-ins disappeared from the state election code (which I assume applies to municipal elections) some years back via an oversight, yeah, sure, but that’s what I’ve been told.
Maybe the replacement for outgoing Sen. Cynthia Nava will form a coalition in the 2013 legislature and reinstate write-in voting. Rep. Joseph Cervantes has announced for the seat.
If write-ins were available, my guess is that the Sunland Park voters would find a real person and elect that person mayor.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Five Employ Fewer Than NM

During 2011 in New Mexico, 54.3% of the population was employed. This is the lowest employment to population ratio for New Mexico since the series began in 1976, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wednesday.
Our e2p ratio isn’t the nation’s lowest. West Virginia, at 49.5%, has claimed that “honor” since 1972. West Virginia is the only state with less than half the population working.
Six states join New Mexico with an e2p ratio under 55%. Florida, populated by retirees from Brooklyn or somewhere, is the only one with an acceptable explanation.
The other five are the usual southern suspects: Alabama, 53.4%; Mississippi, 53.5%; and Louisiana, 54.9%.
South Carolina’s employment to population ratio is 53.5% with Michigan at 53.6%.
The ratio nationally is 58.4%. New Mexico’s ratio ranks 45th among the states. Our place more than four points behind the national ratio provides yet another illustration of the deep challenges facing those interested in a better life for New Mexicans.