Monday, June 16, 2014

Abq Journal Op-Ed, 6/16/14

The material below ran as an op-ed piece on the editorial page in today's Albuquerque Journal. It was extracted from columns I wrote in April. Creating the op-ed was Rep. Hall's idea. Thanks Jimmie. - Harold Morgan


Nation’s Worst State Economy Is Here. But Why, Exactly?

By Rep. Jimmie Hall and Harold Morgan

The worst state economy in the nation is here. Albuquerqueans are very good at divorce. People are leaving the state. Incomes are flat.
These things go together.
For April, we lost wage jobs, year-over-year, for the fourth consecutive month, reported the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We are one of three states with year-over-year losses, keeping us in the singular position of the worst nation’s state economy. We also led in month over month decline. The April-to-April decline was 4,400 jobs or 0.54 percent. Maybe it was newly divorced people leaving. Men’s Health magazine ranked divorce propensity in 100 cities. Albuquerque placed 99th.
Mapping county population change from 2008 and 2013 reveals a band of 15 population losers from northeast to southwest. From 2003 to 2008, 13 counties lost population. The trend has accelerated since 2010.
Births, deaths and moving sum to population change. Births minus deaths provide “natural increase.” Six counties, led by Sierra, had too few births to offset the number of deaths during 2010-to-2013. Moving, called “migration,” can be international or “domestic”—into or out of the state from the United States. Such moves tend to be for economic or family reasons.
Domestic movement is most important. For the three years from April 2010 to 2013, the departure total was 21,500. The most recent year July 1, 2012, to July 1, 2013—produced 13,500 departures, almost two-thirds of the total. About 3,600 people left during each of the previous two years.
During the 2012-13 year, 3,000 people moved here from other places in the United States, making net domestic migration a negative 10,526. Lea and Eddy counties provided 90 percent of the migration gain. Babies explain the population growing 26,100 (to 2.08 million) between 2010 and 2013. The 89,000 new babies were 36,000 more than the 53,000 deaths.
Income reflects this. For 2013, total personal income increased 1.7 percent. That placed 48th nationally. The 2013 inflation of 1.6 percent nearly consumed the increased earnings. Transfer payments (welfare, social security, etc.) more than doubled the earnings increase from real work.
Anguish aside, last year’s report about being 50th in child poverty only reflects bigger issues, work in particular. People participating in the labor force either have a job or believe it worth seeking a job.
In August 2013, labor force participation nationally was 63.2 percent, the lowest since August 1978. For New Mexico, participation was 58.5 percent for April 2014, ahead of five states.
Government dominated counties lead labor force participation: Los Alamos has 67.2 percent participation, followed by Santa Fe, Bernalillo, and Curry. Much else happens in these counties besides national laboratories, state government and the military. But what? Getting to the detail would be useful and inexpensive.
McKinley County has the lowest labor force participation, meaning the least work done in a general sense, of our larger counties. In McKinley, participation is 52.2 percent, below West Virginia’s lowest state rate of 53.4 percent. Sierra, Guadalupe and Catron follow.
Agriculture receives little appreciation. While agriculture itself is only about two percent of our economy, Emily Kerr, a Dallas Federal Reserve Bank economist, says that including linkages takes the total impact to around nine percent. With chile a small sector—cash receipts of $46.7 million in 2011—identifying those linkages to understand the full impact becomes more important. Maybe chile is a $200 million economic sector.
Chile linkages include cultural essence, farm machinery and fertilizer, transportation, food processing, recreation, various retail, literature and publishing, cuisine, tourism, government (extension service and research), international relations (the international chile conference and the research deal between NMSU and a Korean university).
Discovering the reasons behind all this bad stuff and identifying opportunities would be good first steps toward improvement.

Jimmie Hall is a state representative from Albuquerque. Harold Morgan’s weekly column is syndicated to nine community newspapers.

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