Monday, April 18, 2016

Leisure and Hospitality Jobs Up 5.3%, Mining down 25%

The start the year, New Mexico’s job engine (snicker) showed a January 2015 to January 2016 performance of a decrease of 1,800 jobs. The year-over-year “growth” for February was 300, meaning zero, which the Department of Workforce Solutions pointed out before talking about the “month’s very modest gain.”
For March the year-over-year gain was 3,000 jobs, probably enough to mean that indeed a few jobs were added around the state after considering statistical variability.
For the sectors, leisure and hospitality led the percentage growth with a 5.3% increase from 4,800 jobs. The larger education and health services sector led the number gain with 6,800 new jobs, or 5.1%.
Professional and business services (+800 jobs), construction (+700 jobs) and other services (+600) were the other private sector gainers.
Local government added 800 jobs. The devil in that detail is the 800-job loss in local government education, namely the public schools, which means that the rest of local government gained 1,600 jobs.
Mining is down 6,900 jobs, or a bit more than 25%, from a year ago. The sector now has 20,100 jobs.
Employment (different from wage jobs) was up about 5,500 in metro Albuquerque to 392,000. In Farmington, employment dropped about 700 during the year and increased 600 in Las Cruces and 200 in Santa Fe.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Home Sales Jump 40% in March

The February increase in metro Albuquerque sales of single family detached homes appears to have turned into the spring seasonal increase. Closed sales during March jumped 40% from February to 896 units, an 8.3 hike from March 2016.
Those 896 homes sold in an average of 62 days, an eight day improvement from February.
The Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors released the March sales figures on April 11.
The market remains tight, tilting toward sellers. The adsorption rate is 3.85, indicating that it would take 3.85 months to clear the present inventory of 3198 detached homes.
The negative, if one wants to call it that, is that the March jump was lower than the 49% that sales during March 2015 grew from February 2015.
The March 2016 closed sales were 86% of the 1,040 sales pending during February. For March, pending sales increased to 1,188, up 148 from February, or 14%. The March pending sales were 7.8% ahead of March 2015.
Though still below last fall, prices are doing well for a March. The March median price of $180,000 is the highest March median since 2009. The March median increased $2,000 from February and was up 2.9% from a year ago.
The March average price, $218,141, is also the highest since 2009. The March average was nearly $6,000 more than February, a three percent increase, and a 3.8% increase from March 2015.
Sale of ten detached homes in the $750,000 - $999,000 price range helped the average price. This category had two March sales last year and three in 2015.

Monday, April 4, 2016

ART Draws Lawsuit

The proposed Albuquerque Rapid Transit project has drawn a lawsuit, the Albuquerque Journal reported today. Another suit is expected. While I'm totally outside active participation in this dispute, the suits appear to be part of a delaying approach by opponents. The project would run a bus line using fancy buses down the middle of Central Ave., eating two of the four present traffic lanes. Opposition has been vehement.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Abq Homes Sales Up 7% in February

After the way up and way down gyrations of December and January, sales of single family detached homes in metro Albuquerque resumed an upward path in February and threw in nice year over-year and month-over-month price increases as a bonus. The Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors (gaar.com) released the February sales report today.
Sales closed on 638 homes during February, a 44 unit, or 7% increase from January, and an 84 unit or 15.2% jump from January 2015.
Sale was pending on 638 metro homes during February, up 128 homes, or 14%, from January and up 119 homes, or 13% from February 2015. Of the 912 homes with sale pending in January, 70%, a relatively low figure, turned into closed sales in February.
Across the entire metro, the homes with sales closing were on the market for 70 days, three days less than February 2015 but six days more than January. The sales were much slower in Rio Rancho, where homes were on the market for 82 days. It was 62 days in Albuquerque.
The average sales price, $212,172 in February, dropped two percent, or $5,075, month-over-month but was up 6.5%, or about $13,000, from February 2015. That $212,172 average was the highest February average since 2011. One reason the average price dropped was that the month’s best selling price group was the $120,000 to $139,999 range with 83 sales, a 36% year over-year hike. In February 2105, the group ranked third in sales.
February’s median sales price, $178,000, was the highest February median since 2009. The $178,000 median was up five percent, or $9,000, year over-year and increased $3,000 from January.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Abq January Home Sales Down 26%

After inexplicably jumping 26% between November and December, closed sales of metro Albuquerque single family detached homes more than gave away the December gains with a 26%, or 213 unit, drop in January.
The 594 closed sales during January were 10.6% more than December 2014 closed sales of 656 homes.
The suggestion of improved sales during February comes from the 34% increase to 912 homes of pending sales during January. That’s a 233 unit or 34% increase.
It took an average of 64 days for a home to sale during January, fairly quick, but still the longest sales period since April 2015.
The median price for home with sales closed during January was $175,000, up 3.2% from January 2015, but down $500 from December. The $175,000 median price was the lowest since $175,000 in March 2015.
January’s average price was $217,247, up 4%, or $9,018, from December and up 6.8% from January 2015. Three homes sold in the million dollar plus price range helped that average as did eight in the $750,000 to $999,000 range where four homes sold a year ago.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Luján Statement on Pearce Gold King Mine Bill

The statement below was provided by the office of Rep. Ben Ray Lujan in response to my request for comment about Rep. Steve Pearce's Gold King Accountability Act of 2016. At 154-words the statement is too long to include in my column about Pearce's bill. The point of requesting comment was that the river pollution from the mine spill happened in Lujan's district. For reader convenience the statement is posted here.

Received February 5, 2016 via email from Monica Sanchez, a member of Rep. Lujan's Washington, D.C., staff

“The Gold King Mine spill has taken a huge toll on communities in New Mexico and on the Navajo Nation, impacting businesses, farmers, and ranchers. I am pleased that Congressman Pearce’s legislation includes provisions that are in the Gold King Mine Spill Recovery Act, which I introduced in September with New Mexico’s Senators and Congresswoman Lujan Grisham. These provisions establish an office within the EPA to provide compensation to make those impacted whole and require the agency to work with state, local, and tribal governments to ensure long-term water quality monitoring.

“While I have some concerns with Congressman Pearce’s bill, I am committed to holding the EPA accountable for this disaster. That is why I traveled to San Juan County immediately following the spill to participate in the first of a series of community meetings, met with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in Farmington and Durango, and have repeatedly questioned EPA officials at Congressional hearings.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

State Job Growth Slows, Three Metros Lose

During the year from November 2014 to November 2015, metro Albuquerque gained 7,200 seasonally unadjusted wage jobs. For December the year-over-year gain dropped to 5,000 on the “strength” of losing 2,400 jobs between November and December.
Over the year, Santa Fe (-100), Farmington (-1,000) and as Cruces (-1,100) combined to lose 2,200 jobs. That was 400 fewer jobs lost than during the November 2-14 to November 2015 year.
The state gained 2,600 jobs for the year and lost 1,800 for the month. Seven states performed worse than New Mexico. Two showed no job total change and five lost jobs.
Retail trade was the leading loser for the month, down 1,200 jobs, which generated a 900 job loss for the year. That retail trade would lose jobs during December seems curious, what with the holiday shopping. The retail losses concentrated in Albuquerque, down 700 for the month and 800 for the year. Albuquerque is the sate’s retail center.
Making the state/Albuquerque retail performance is Las Cruces showing no change for the month and the year and Santa Fe with no change for the month and 100 more jobs for the year.
In Albuquerque professional and business services lost 300 jobs for the month and gained 3,700 for the year. Education and health services had no change for the month and 1,500 more jobs for the year. Leisure and hospitality dropped 400 jobs for the month and gained 1,200 for the year.
Statewide, leisure and hospitality showed 1,100 more jobs during the month and 4,400 over the year. Education and health services had 2,900 more jobs year-over-year and 300 more for the month. Professional and business services also added 300 jobs during December and 2,500 year-over-year.
The Las Cruces jobs losses were professional and business services (-700), leisure and hospitality (-300), construction (-300) and manufacturing (-100). Except for September 2014, Las Cruces has lost jobs since May 2014.

Monday, February 1, 2016

NM As Federal Colony. Acoma Myth Continued

In December 2014, the Journal’s Win Quigley compared New Mexico to Equatorial Guinea.
In his January 31 Up Front column, he was back at it.
There is a photo of the Onate statue in Alcalde. The photo caption mentions, “Acoma Indians whose feet were amputated…” Thomas Chavez and John Kessell, two of our leading historians, both say that while the Spanish ordered amputation as punishment for opposing the Spanish, no evidence exists that the mutilation actually happened. Kessell’s point was that the Spanish were meticulous record keepers, but record exists of the actual amputation.
Sloppy. And perpetuating a myth of the evil Spanish.
More important, Quigley, without supporting evidence, writes “of our almost total dependence on federal energy and defense spending for what economic progress we did enjoy in the 20th century…”
To be sure, defense spending drove growth in the 1940s and 50s as the Bernalillo County population about doubled during each decade and others grew rapidly.
I’m not sure the meaning of “almost total dependence…”
But Quigley misses a few things, starting more than a century ago with art and tourism development by the Santa Fe Railway. Oil in Lea County starting in 1928. Potash in Lea and Eddy Counties. Skiing. Natural gas in San Juan County. Intel and other silicon wafer manufacturing. The Santa Fe Institute. St. John’s College.
Quigley worked for Digital Equipment Corp., a computer manufacturer. I guess he forgot that. Or maybe DEC, which came and went, doesn’t count as “economic progress.” The old DEC plant now houses a bunch of service businesses. While these businesses probably provide less value added than building computers, they are more than the pre-DEC value added, which was nothing.
Quigley says, “New Mexico, as a ward of Washington, in some ways remains a colony to this day,” just as under the Spanish. Quigley says New Mexico also was a colony of the United States. Wrong. New Mexico was a territory, something quite different.
But stealing the local’s land was the game after the Civil War. Today the results are “living history,” Quigley calls it, and “a nightmare.” Rampant victimhood is one result, I believe.
Quigley’s image of New Mexico as a “colony” suggests that we cower here under the lash of the federal government. Hardly.
Our federal scientific facilities do work around the world. They work with other labs (Are Argonne or Lawrence Livermore colonies?). Lab staff commute to Washington, D.C. and D.C. staff commute to New Mexico.

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 newmexicoprosperity.org.
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).

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Business "Climate"

A friend from New England works for a large national organization that has a branch in Albuquerque. Recently a New England colleague of my friend called an Albuquerque colleague and inquire about the meth atmosphere in Albuquerque. This environment was all too well portrayed in the "Breaking Bad" television series. While one can't complain about the Albuquerque businesses offering tours of the sites seen in "Breaking Bad" and in the "Better Call Saul" series, this overlay (underlay?) on the Duke City's reputation could be one of those other-things-equal decision points that would drive a business or an individual to locate elsewhere.

Friday, December 18, 2015

NM Continues as Unemployment Rate Leader

A statistically significant seasonally adjusted job gain of 3,900 happened in New Mexico Between October and November. But it was little enough to keep us at the bottom (or top) of the unemployment rate rankings with 6.8% unemployed, up from 6.1% in November 2014, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released this morning.
The 6.8% unemployment rate was unchanged from October (and, indeed, unchanged from September. We now have the nation’s highest unemployment rate, up (or down) one place from October. We continue, therefore, with the nation’s worst economy.
New Mexicans are dropping from the labor force. Some of those not working have gone back to not bothering looking for work. The labor force dropped 2,100 from 916,600 in November 2014 to 914,700 last month, a drop of two tenths of one percent (0.02%). The more serious deterioration has been since September when the labor force was 923,500. The two-month seasonally adjusted decline is 8,800 people, or 0.95%, more than four times the year-over-year rate.
Meanwhile 6,100 more people have become unemployed year-over-year.
Unemployment has been steady at around 62,000 the past three months with the unemployment rate at 6.8%. That means the unemployment rate increase between November 2014 and November 2015 have come because of the drop in the labor force, because of people giving up this work thing.
“Employment” is defined as the labor force count minus unemployment. Employment dropped 8,000, or 0.93%, year over year.
Wage employment, the “other” set of job numbers, puts us in a bit better light. Between November 2014 and November 2015, seasonally adjusted wage employment increased 3,000 or a whopping 0.36% (a bit more than three tenths of one percent).
Separate surveys produce the separate numbers.
The Department of Workforce Solutions reported the unemployment rate in its release in mid-afternoon. DWS ignored our national unemployment rate standing. Gee.
The seasonally unadjusted sector wage job growth leaders between November 2014 and November 2015 were leisure and hospitality, up 3,100 jobs, or 3.5%, education and health services, up 2,900 jobs, or 2.2%, and professional and business services, up 2,800 jobs, or 2.8%.
Mining, meaning oil and gas, was down 2,900 jobs. Manufacturing and transportation both lost 1,100 jobs over the year.