Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rural Counties Lose 1,400 jobs

The January 2016 to January 2017 net job performance for New Mexico’s four metro areas was 2,300 more wage jobs. Albuquerque and Las Cruces respectively added 3,800 and 800 jobs. Farmington lost 1,800 and Santa Fe 500. The state added a net of 900 jobs, meaning that the 26 rural counties lost 1,400 jobs (2,300 minus 900 = 1,400).
Eight states lost jobs for the period. New Mexico had the lowest growth that was still positive. As has been reported, New Mexico led the nation with a 6.7% unemployment rate.
The Department of Workforce Solutions released the January job report yesterday. The new numbers are not seasonally adjusted.
Monthly job performance usually gets little attention due to seasonal changes. The year-over-year performance indicates the trend.
From December 2016 to January 2017, the state lost 19,400 jobs, 1,300 more than the 18,800 dropped from December 2015 to January 2016. For the year just past, the state’s 900-job increase represents a slight reversal from the 1,800 jobs lost between January 2015 and January 2016.
Mining gained 200 jobs between December 2016 to January 2017. Finance and wholesale trade show no change. Every other sector lost, “led” by retail trade with post-holiday layoffs causing a 3,900-job decline. Professional and business services was the largest other private sector loser, down 1,200 jobs.
State government education was also down 3,900 jobs for the month, presumably also holiday related. Local government education—the public schools—dropped 3,000 jobs. For the year, government employment increased in Albuquerque, led by 300 more feds, and showed modest losses in Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Farmington. Translated, the rural counties took the main hit.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Winter Continues for Abq Home Sales

Fewer single family detached homes have sold in metro Albuquerque of the few months and they took longer to sell. The standard winter slump? No doubt, mostly? But the average number of days that a home is on the market has risen steadily from 54 last November to 66 in February. The February average days figure was nine days less than the 75 days needed for a sale in February 2015. Some good news lurks.
February saw the sale closed for 633 detached homes, down 29 from January and down 39, or 5.8%, from January 2016. The 633 sales were 68% of the 937 sales pending during January, a relatively low proportion.
The 28 days of February masked a performance improvement from January. During February an average of 22.6 homes sold each day. During January, average sales per day were 21.4. Both figures were well down from December when 28.2 homes sold each day, even with all the holiday disruption.
The Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors released the February sales report today. See gaar.com.
The median sales price was $186,500 during February. The average price was $223,104. Both figures were up just over 6.5% from February 2016. The average price has increased about 10% from February 2015.
Pending sales were 1,059 during February, a 12% increase from a year before. Pending sales were 770 in December and 937 in January.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Supporting GRT Reform

This essay ran as a "guest column" in the Albuquerque.The essay supports the comprehensive reform of New Mexico's gross receipts tax that is House Bill 412 in the current legislature. My column in support f HB 412 run in New Mexico News Services subscribing newspapers the week of March 6 and then will be posted at nmopinions.com. - HM

By Brian McDonald / Economic Consultant, Albuquerque and Chuck Wellborn / Retired Lawyer, Albuquerque
Albuquerque Journal, Friday, February 24th, 2017 at 12:02am
A pending bill in the Legislature, HB 412, seeks to bring badly needed reform to the state’s gross receipts tax by removing ill-considered deductions and exemptions, thereby expanding the GRT tax base and enabling the GRT tax rate to be reduced. The latter is a well-recognized principle of state taxation – tax a broad base of economic activity at a low tax rate.

One aspect of this bill that should be widely embraced is in fact one of its most controversial provisions. That is re-imposing GRT on food – though at a reduced rate.
There are more reasons to support the tax on food than many know:
⋄ It’s not at all clear that exempting food from GRT actually benefits the poor,
⋄ The benefits of the food tax exemption flow almost entirely to the non-poor,
⋄ The food tax break is a primary contributor to our current fiscal woes, reducing tax revenues by more than $200 million each year,
⋄ These lost revenues are desperately needed for public education, early childhood development and Medicaid, which do benefit the poor, and
⋄ Lost GRT tax revenue on food sales has forced cities and counties to increase their GRT rates on non-food items such as utilities and clothing, further burdening the poor.
Opponents of reinstating the food tax say that even though the poor get federal SNAP (food stamp) assistance, SNAP assistance only provides a portion of their food needs. Co-author Brian McDonald, a Ph.D. economist who headed UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research until his retirement, points to data that raises serious questions about this premise.
In fiscal 2015, SNAP assistance totaling $685.2 million went to 205,540 New Mexico households, with each household receiving $3,333 per year on average. By federal law, SNAP benefits have never been subject to GRT. The 2004 legislation eliminating food from the GRT tax base therefore provided little tax relief to the poor in New Mexico. New Mexico SNAP recipients today receive GRT tax benefits totaling $47.96 million – assuming a 7 percent GRT tax rate – by virtue of this federal exemption, not the 2004 New Mexico legislation exempting food.
How does the $3,333 in SNAP assistance each household received compare to the annual food purchases of similar households?
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey data for that year show that the lowest 10 percent of households in the United States by income spent $2,566 on “food at home” – the closest data concept to the New Mexico GRT tax base on food. The second lowest 10 percent of households by income spent $2,432 on food at home.
Extrapolating this data to New Mexico’s poor, the lowest 20 percent of households are receiving SNAP benefits, which typically cover most or all of their expenditures on food and which are not subject to GRT taxation by federal law. Under HB 412, these $685.2 million in food purchases by the poor will still be exempt from GRT.
The lower GRT tax rate proposed by HB 412 will give the poor in New Mexico real tax relief on their non-food purchases such as utilities, clothing, food consumed at restaurants and school supplies. Arguably, the poor in New Mexico will pay more GRT if HB 214 excludes food from the tax base because the GRT tax rate will have to be increased in order to generate the same level of tax collections with a smaller tax base.