Saturday, January 30, 2016

Martinez’ Crime Policies Watched

Crime policy actions by Governor Susana Martinez are watched nationally. The attention comes because Martinez’ previous job was a Dona Ana County district attorney. The observation came from Vikrant Reddy, senior research fellow for the Charles Koch Institute.
Reddy was in New Mexico pitching criminal justice system reform. The Institute hosted events in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
Retired very famous race driver Bobby Unser was Albuquerque’s star attraction. He told of his nearly fatal adventure getting lost in a blizzard near Chama while snow mobiling above timberline. Unser and his companion spent three nights on the mountain in snow caves.
Once rescued Unser was charged with wrongly being on forest service land with the snow mobiles and assessed a $75 fine. Unser suggest what the feds could do with their charge and the fine and took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. “You have to stand for something,” Unser said.
Reddy, who is from Texas and ought to know better, told the audiences in Albuquerque and Santa Fe how wonderful he thought it was to have found, on a previous trip to Albuquerque, people as varied as a physicist and a rancher who were very politically informed.
Actually, Texans can be condescending about almost everything.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Nation’s Unemployment Rate Leader Again

The unemployment rate in New Mexico dropped a hair in December (0.01 points) but managed a second month as the nation’s highest with 6.7% unemployment. That rate, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics news release put it, is “significantly different” from the national 5% unemployment rate on a seasonally adjusted basis. The unemployment rate was 6.8% in November and October.
Of the 26 states with a statistically significant unemployment rate change between December 2014 and December 2015, New Mexico was the only one where the rate increased. Seven other states showed rate increases over the year, but nothing significant. The unemployment rate dropped in 42 states and the District of Columbia, the BLS said.
This is just amazing. Not that we didn’t already know it.
The Department of Workforce Solutions overlooked these two details in its release about the job numbers. No surprise.
Our wage employment did increase during the year, going from 827,400 in December 2014 to 830,000 a year later, a 2,600-job, or 0.3% (three-tenths of one percent). The “improvement” rode a 2,900 job, or 2.2%, increase in education and health services, which means Medicaid.
Behind the New Mexico performance is a 4,500-person seasonally adjusted year-over-year drop in the labor force. The labor force is defined as people working or looking for work. That group of 4,500 gave up.
Meanwhile the number of unemployed grew 6,000 over the year from 55,100 in December 2014 to 61,100 in December 2015, an 11% jump.
The job growth came in leisure and hospitality (tourism + skiing), professional and business services, and education and health care (Medicaid). Carroll Cagle has a nice summary of the number (and it’s a big one) that Medicaid is doing on state finances. See the News and Views Blog at
Employment, which is somewhat different from wage jobs, in Lea County dropped 2,388 during the year from 29,390 to 27,302.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Abq Home Sales Take Surprising Jump in December

The sale of 807 single family detached homes closed in Metro Albuquerque during December. The performance is amazing. Two reasons: The December performance was 23% ahead of December 2014. It happened in an economy that seems to be improving, but with a good many of the new jobs coming from Medicaid (i.e., welfare) expansion. Second, The sales were 13 units more than the 794 sales pending during November.
The December closed sales performance was also 155 more than during November, a 24% increase.
Sales of condos and townhouses also jumped during December, going from 62 in November to 90 in December.
During December, homes took an average of 61 days to sell, a ten-day improvement from December 2014.
The seasonal rule is that sales decline from the previous month in December, January and February and then pick up in March.
The strength of the performance motivated a call to the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors, which released the December sales report December 11. Nothing unusual happened during December, GAAR staff said.
For December, sales were pending for 679 homes, a 4.6% increase from December 2014 and down 115 units or 14% from November. The seasonal pattern reappeared here.
The median sales price was $175,500 during December. The average sales price was $208,229. Both figures were down about $5,000 from November and dropped around one percent from December 2015.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Impressions: Three Bad. One Good.

The known impressions left on Albuquerque by the “Breaking Bad” cult television series and the successor, “Better Call Saul,” include tours of the filming sites. But there is more. A friend in New England works for a large national organization with an Albuquerque office. A colleague of my New England friend recently called someone in the Albuquerque office to inquire about the meth environment in Albuquerque. I not quite sure what that means, but it doesn’t sound like a trolley tour is being considered.
A guess is that the suspicion of a “meth environment” would deter an executive considering locating a business in Albuquerque.

Speaking of darkness, we did the Albuquerque luminaria tour. To avoid the traffic, we rode the bus. But the bus windows are tinted, thereby obscuring the view of the soft glow of the candles in the paper bags. Maybe the bus windows are tinted to make it more difficult to see how people ride the bus.

This was a map caption. The map showed employment changes by county in the United States. The caption pointed out that Harding County had the nation’s largest unemployment rate gain. Another winner for a vibrant New Mexico.

And finally, something nice. Las Cruces was a runner up in Sunset magazine’s Best Hometowns 2016 competition. The category, won by Santa Barbara, California, was Best Sustainable Community. The other categories were neighborhood, small town, medium-size town and suburb. The article is in the February issue.
Las Cruces was the only New Mexico community to place in the ratings. Never thought of Las Cruces in that way.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Professional and Business Services Leads Abq. Other Metros Drop Jobs.

The state’s three smaller metro areas lost 2,600 jobs in the year from November 2014 to November 2015, according to the Labor Market Review newsletter released December 28 by the Department of Workforce Solutions. Albuquerque added 7,200 jobs, a 1.9% gain, making for 4,600 net new wage jobs produced, year over year, by the four metros.
Across the entire state, 3,000 new jobs appeared which means that the 26 rural counties lost 1,600 jobs over the year.
These figures are not seasonally adjusted.
Lea County alone accounted for all these jobs, almost says a special Labor Market Review article. I say “almost” because the LMR article uses numbers from the second quarter for 2015. Lea’s wage job total was down 1,667 between the second quarter of 2014 and the second quarter of 2015. Mining, meaning oil and gas production, lost 964 jobs.
Biofuels cuts also affected Lea County such as the layoffs at Joule Unlimited.
Statewide, mining lost 2,900 jobs. The other biggest losers around the state were manufacturing (-1,100), transportation, warehousing and utilities (-1,100), and wholesale trade (-800).
The statewide winners, year-over-year, were the three sectors that have been adding decent numbers of jobs the past few months: leisure and hospitality (+3,100), the Medicaid-driven education and health services (+2,900), and professional and business services (+2,800).
In Albuquerque, professional and business services added 4,000 new jobs over the year through November 2015. That’s a seven percent increase, more, DWS said, than in the past 20 years. Skepticism seems warranted. No headlines jump out to explain this alleged boom.
The big loss in Las Cruces was in professional and businesses services (-900).