Sunday, April 20, 2014

Economy Goes Pfft. Jobs Drop Again in March.

A pffft was the sound from the New Mexico economy as the first quarter closed with a third consecutive month of job losses. The Department of Workforce Solutions released the numbers April 18.
The March drop was 1,000 jobs, or 0.1 percent, from March 2013.
Sector behavior was all over the place and without a sense of trend for this observer.
The best sector news comes from the 1,400-job increase in mining. Things in addition to oil and gas, potash for example, are happening, though, with the usual lack of detail, the impact is unknown to us semi-wonk people. We hear that any hotel room is Carlsbad is a rare commodity, much less a reasonable room for a reasonable price. “Way back when,” in March 2005, mining had 15,700 jobs split with 11,700 in oil and gas and 3,800 in actual mining. The total today is 26,900 for all mining.
Finance leads the oddity group with a 1,900-job, or six percent, increase over the year. Insurance provides a third of the finance jobs. Other major finance groups are banks, savings institution and “credit intermediation.” The March 2014 employment is 34,800. The growth is baffling. DWS observes, “Recent (finance) growth has been much higher than what is typically reported for the sector.” Well, OK. Why?
Retail provided the second oddest news with a 2,100-job increase. A growing retail sector would seem to need a growing economy and/or firms with deep pockets making long-term bets. But on what?
The continuing shrinkage of manufacturing hurts. Also “way back when,” in March 2005, manufacturing had 35,000 wage jobs. Today it is 26,800 jobs. To some degree, the manufacturing jobs have migrated to mining and to Lea and Eddy counties from Albuquerque.
Leisure and hospitality added 1,500 jobs. Professional and business services lost 1,500.
Local government education was the government loser for March, down 1,900 jobs. Federal employment dropped 1,100.
More details to come April 25.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Pending Home Sales Up 20%

A 20% jump in pending sales from February was the big change during March for metro Albuquerque sales of single family detached homes. Pending sales went from 793 during February to 950 for March, a 20% increase.
March marked the third consecutive month for pending sales to be less than the same month of 2013. The 950 pending sales were 14.3% behind March 2013. Pending sales of attached homes (townhouses and condominiums) also dropped, year over year, for the third month.
The Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors released the March sales report yesterday, the 10th, the usual release day.
Sales per day increased during March, eliminating the argument that increasing total sales don’t count because March had three more days than February. But during March the sale closed on an average of 22,4 homes each day. For February, 19.6 was the average per day for sales closed. Total closed sales during March were 695, a 26%, or 145 unit, increase from February.
During March 2013 and February 2014, there were 59 attached homes sold. Sales were 62 units during March 2014, a 5.1% increase.
Prices showed little movement during March. The median price, $170,000, was up $1,000 from February and down $5,000, or 2.9%, from March 2013. The average price, $202,672, increased $67 from March 2013 and $4,200 from February.
Homes did sell more quickly during March. The average sales period was 74 days, a nine-day improvement from February and a day more than March 2013.

Monday, April 7, 2014

NM Economy Worst in Nation, Again

In the new issue of Department of Workforce Solutions “Labor Market Review” newsletter, DWS’ old words for losing jobs appeared lead headline, which said the state’s “rate of over-the-year job growth, comparing February 2014 with February 2013, was negative 0.2 percent, representing a loss of 1,900 jobs.”
Only on page 16, in a table, did DWS remember to mention that our “growth rate” for the year was the worst in the nation, tied with Kentucky. The news was buried about as deep as it could go without omitting it entirely.
DWS does have a new word for “losing,” as in “losing” jobs (or lost jobs. DWS offers us “contracted,” as in “The Albuquerque MSA total nonfarm employment contracted by 1.2 percent over the year (between February 2013 and February 2014) with a loss of 4,500 jobs.” That means the rest of the state added 2,600 jobs.
Albuquerque’s private sector dropped 3,900 jobs. Government chipped in another 600. The big sector hits in Albuquerque mirrored the statewide results. Professional and business services led with a decline of 1,400 jobs, followed by manufacturing, -1,000; leisure and hospitality, -1,000; and information,-900.
Wage jobs “contracted” in Santa Fe, too, “by 0.3%, representing a loss of 200 jobs.” For Farmington, DWS went with the old standard, “decreased,” to describe the city’s situation of 600 fewer jobs, or 1.2% less, over the year.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Job Losses Continue in February

If it takes three months of job losses to be in a recession, we’re on the way. The February job release from the Department of Workforce Solutions says the state lost 1,900 wage jobs, a 0.2% decline, between February 2013 and February 2014. DWS released the released this afternoon (March 28).
Job disappeared in January, too. See previous post.
The big February to February hits were in manufacturing and professional and business services. Manufacturing lost 2,000 jobs, a 7% drop from the 28,800 jobs of a year ago. PBS was down 1,900 from the February 2013 employment of 98,300.
The claim is that the finance activities sector was up 1,800 jobs over the year. This is after finance got 1,800 jobs lopped away in the benchmarking revisions covered in my new column.
The mining and logging sector resumed its role of saving the state or at least the southeast corner and state government revenue with a 1,400 job increase between February 2013 and February 2014.
All in all the private sector added 400 jobs over the year. Government lost 2,300 jobs over the year with the feds and local government both down 1,100. State government dropped 600 in education but only 100 in total. State government was up 3,800 between January and February and local grew 2,800 with 2,500 in education. The figures are not seasonally adjusted. Perhaps the monthly increase reflected post Christmas break returning to work.
A glance at county employment (different from wage jobs) shows all four metro areas with slight increases. That means the job losses were in rural counties.

Monday, March 17, 2014

State Loses Jobs. Oh, Again?

The Department of Workforce Solutions stuck with Doublespeak to report the state’s January 2013 to January 2014 job change situation this afternoon. “The rate of over-the-year job growth, comparing January 2014 with January 2013, was a negative 0.5 percent, representing a loss of 3,700 jobs,” DWS said.
Whatever the word, there were fewer jobs. Government was the leader, down 3,200 for the year. Local government led the sector, dropping 1,700 jobs for the year including 900 in “local government education.” The feds lost another 1,400. State government declined a mere 100 jobs thanks to 1,400 more wage jobs in “state government education.”
Two key basic economy sectors took hits of size for the January to January year. Manufacturing dropped 1,500 jobs, followed by professional and business services, down 1,100. This ugliness was mitigated by mining, up 1,700. The sector includes the state’s three or four logging jobs. Long live Lea County.
Leisure and Hospitality showed no change after months and months of job growth.
DWS promises details on Friday.

Monday, March 10, 2014

February Homes Sales Up, Pending Sales Down from 2013

To say that the metro Albuquerque market for single family detached homes was flat in February as compared to January is tempting. February sales were, after all, a slight 2% above January, 550 homes versus 529 homes.
Giving into the temptation forgets that January has 31 days and February has 28. A bit of calculator punching tells us that during February, homes sold at the rate of 19.6/day. The January per day sales rate was 17.4, which makes the February performance a 12.6% increase from January.
However, February flab comes with the comparison to February 2013 when sales of 542 homes closed. Our February just past with its 550 units closed showed a slight 1.5% improvement from 2013.
February pending sales followed the pattern. The February pending figure was 24 units more than January, an entirely modest 3.1% increase. During February 28.3 sales began to pend each day. In January it was 24.8 per day.
Comparing to February 2013, pending sales did better than during January when pending sales dropped 20.6% the year ago month. February 2014 pending sales were down “only” 13% from February 2013. It is difficult to see how the number of closed sales can continue to grow while pending sales decline.
February price were flat. The median price was $169,000, up just a whisker (well under one percent) from both January and February 2013. The average price, $198,483, a 2.5% drop from both January and February 2013. No million dollar-plus homes sold during February. There were three such sales a year ago.
During February the time to sale a house got longer. The 83 average time on the market for a closed sale was 83 days, up nine percent from January 2014 and February 2013.
The Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors released the February sales figures today.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Homes Sales Up from 2013, Up and Down From December 2013 and January 2013

Differing directions characterized the movement of the various measures of single family detached home sales activity in metro Albuquerque from December 2013 to January 2014. The Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors released the January sales report today. January typically is the slowest sales month of the year.
January sales of 539 homes were 116, or 18%, less than the 655 sales during December. However, following the difference theme, January 2014 sales were 59 units, or 12.3%, more than January 2013.
Pending sales went the other way with the 769 pending sales during January being 137 units, or 22%, above December. On the year-over-year comparison, January pending sales were 200 units, 20.6%, below January 2013.
The home sales that did close during January took longer. For January 2014 the average sales period was 76 days, two days more than January 2103 and up 31% from 61 sales during November.
As with the sales figures, price movement couldn’t pick a direction.
The median sales price was $167,900 for January. That was up 6.3% from January 2013 but down $17,100, or 9%, from December 2013. The median price drop from December took the price back to the level of November ($170,000) and October ($166,000)
For average prices, $203,687 in January 2014, the directions were the same, back down from the December increase but up 9.5% from $186,051 in January 2013.
For the year and including townhouses, condominiums and single family detached homes, sales were 9,741 units, a 1,342 unit, or 16%, from 2012. Annual sales hit bottom in 2011 with 7,376 units. The peak was 2005 with 14,183 units.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Abq Homes Sales, Prices, Up in December

During December, pending sales of single family detached dropped 12% from December 2012. Pending sales were 632 units during December. This was the third consecutive month for a year over year decline in pending sales. Remember the wind and cold from December 3 to 6. That certainly dampens the house-hunting incentive.
Closed sales, following a different drummer, saw the third consecutive monthly year over year increase, with 655 sales for the month, up 8% from December 2012 and 89 units or 16% from November 2013.
Those 655 closed sales were 90% of the 729 sales pending during November, a very high figure. Maybe the motive was getting the deal done before Christmas.
After a 1.6% drop from October to November, average prices, $219,909 in December, headed up with a four percent ($8,000) increase from December 2012 and six percent growth ($12,000) from November 2013. Two homes sold for $1 million or more, the same as during December 2012.
The median sales price was $185,000 for December, a nine percent increase from both November and from December 2012.
Average sales period went to 70 days in December, up from 61 in November and 62 in October.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Another Star Writer

Antonya Nelson is a star writer with a New Mexico connection. More than a connection, really. She teaches at New Mexico State University and lives in Las Cruces when she is not living in Telluride and Houston. Nelson's story, "First Husband," is in the current issue of The New Yorker.
My cue for some research was a mention in the story of "The Duke City."
Nelson's seventh short story collection is to be published next spring. She appears to be yet another of those national class one-person businesses that the powers that be don't know exists.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Population Growth Slight, Very Slight

People have quit coming to New Mexico except via being born. Pretty much, anyway.
Yesterday the Census Bureau gave us a year-end present of state population estimates for July 1, 2013. New Mexico’s population is 2,085,287 as of July 1, 2013, the bureau estimates. That’s up a miniscule 1,747 from a year earlier. The percent increase was 0.084 percent. For the decimal challenged, that means less than one tenth of one percent.
The figure nets everything—births, deaths, people moving here, people leaving.
That percentage increase was a third of the percent growth from July 1, 2011, to July 1, 2012, which, in turn, was less than half of 0.62 percent increase from July 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011.
That we had population growth from 2011 to 2012 was due to more babies appearing than people dying. The real significance is in the migration figures. For the new estimates, the bureau won’t have details for a few weeks. Considering the 2012 details suggests what we will see more births than deaths and more people (grownups, I presume) leaving the state for other places in the U.S. and few people coming from outside the country.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

UP Makes WSJ

A Wall Street Journal article about the performance of the national economy mentioned just one industrial project. The article was in the Saturday/Sunday, December 21 – 22, 2013, edition. The headline said, “U.S. Economy Starts to Gain Momentum.”
The mentioned project is in New Mexico. It is Union Pacific’s “2,200-acre facility in New Mexico, a project expected to cost about $400 million.”
Governor Susana Martinez sometimes mentions the project as being a good thing, but it seems mostly forgotten north of Truth or Consequences.
More important, the facility creates a gateway to Mexico at Santa Teresa, where amazing things are happening.
Putting it another way, the national big-time business publication surveyed the nation’s economy and found just one specific project worth mention, the UP facility five miles northwest of Santa Teresa. That means to me that the project is a very big deal. Well, duh.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Source For Wertheim Column

An essay about paternalism provided the anchor for next week’s column. It came via which means arts and letters daily. Aldaily prints very short excerpts from articles, book reviews and essays and provides the link. The little introductions open intellectual doors that I could never hope to find, much less open.
The following drew me to the paternalism piece. “The new paternalism is so nonconfrontational, anti-ideological, and unwilling to claim moral authority that it can hardly be called “paternal.” Let’s call it “maternalism”... more»”
Find the article at The publication is, which calls itself, “Britain’s first online-only current-affairs mag, spiked is a metaphorical missile against misanthropy.” Nancy McDermott was the writer.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Abq Pending Home Sales Drop Again

The 566 sales of single family detached homes closed during November represented a 22%, or 157 unit decline from the 723 homes sold during October. In turn, the October performance was down 6% from September. The performance appears to be seasonal—sales traditionally drop from the summer going into the fall and don’t pick up until maybe March.
The Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors released the November sales report late this afternoon.
The cloud comes in the number of pending sales, down for three of the past four months on a year over year comparison and down 4% in November to 729 units from 762 in October. Pending sales have been dropping on a month to month basis since peaking for the year at 1,280 in April. July is the most recent month showing a healthy year over year increase in pending sales.
A slowing in the robust recovery of the metro Albuquerque real estate market? Hmmmm…
Another possible sign is that 74% of the 762 sales pending during October turned into closed sales during November. That was down from 81% of September’s 889 pending sales closing during October.
The homes that sell are selling fairly quickly. The average days on market, 60 during July and August, was 61 days during November, down one day from 62 during October.
Median and average sales prices during November showed no interest in rebounding to the 2013 highs reached in August of $182,500 for the median and $223,533 for the average. For November the median was $170,000, up two percent from October. The average, $207,986, was down slightly from October. The November average was pushed by two sales of homes priced at $1 million or more and six sales of homes in the $750,000 to $999,000 category.
The median and average sales prices were both up from November 2012. The median increased three percent, the average 1.6%.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Albuquerque, Santa Fe Add Jobs, Other Metros, Rural Counties Lose

Metro Albuquerque added 2,000 wage jobs during the year from October 2012 through October 2013. The percentage gain was a poor 0.5%. But given that the entire state added 1,900 jobs, that means everywhere outside the Duke City lost a net of 100 jobs. Throw in that Santa Fe gained 200 jobs, then outside the north central urban area, the state lost 300 jobs.
This performance reverses what seem to have been happening for a long time. I haven’t kept a chart, but that is my perception. The numbers were release yesterday by the Department of Workforce Services.
The Farmington and Las Cruces metro areas, respectively San Juan and Dona Ana counties, reported no change in wage job totals for the period.
The Albuquerque gains included 600 more government jobs over the year, 700 in local government 500 in state, minus 600 fewer federal jobs. Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Farmington lost, between them, 500 government jobs, all of them federal. On balance, then, Albuquerque won the state government jobs and rural counties lost the local government jobs.
The financial sector was the big winner statewide with 3,000 more jobs over the year, a 9% increase that continues the sector's strong growth of the past several months. I have figured this increase had something to do with real estate, namely improved home sales. Doubt emerges because the three metros (excluding Farmington which doesn’t report sector numbers) showed only 300 more financial jobs for the year. The additional real estate jobs will be in the metro areas, I think.
On another note, a study released yesterday by George Mason University and reported in Albuquerque Business First, the business weekly, says that New Mexico has the nation’s weakest “real private economy” as defined by percentage of jobs that have nothing to do with the government, or something like that.
Such analysis continues to dismiss that we are, uniquely, who we are, invoking cliches here, with the labs, White Sands, NASA's Fort Sumner balloon operation and the 50-employee USGS Abq-based operation that monitors tectonic movement, and ignores the reality that government spending goes up and down, just like private sector spending.

Friday, November 22, 2013

October Job Growth 28% of August, Still Positive

New Mexico added 1,900 wage jobs between October 2012 and October 2013, according to figures released November 22 by the Department of Workforce Services. That growth is 28% of the 6,900 added between August 2012 and August 2013, the last figures issued. September was a federal sequester skip.
The 1,900 jobs are a net of 5,000 new private sector jobs and 3,100 fewer government jobs, year over year. Local government, the largest government sector, led the losses, down 1,600. The federal job total dropped 1,500, a 4.8% decline for the year, to a wage job total of 29,600. State government employment held at 60,600.
Manufacturing took the biggest percentage hit in the private sector with a 900-job, or 3%, year-over-year decline. In August, manufacturing showed an 800 job year-over-year loss. Education and health services, which hardly ever loses jobs and has four times manufacturing’s employment of 29,300, lost 1,100 jobs.
While the reflex is to call the financial services sector “small,” it employs more than the critical “basic economy” sectors of mining, manufacturing and information. The sector continues to boom, adding 900 wage jobs, or 9%, for a total of 36,100.
Leisure and hospital growth remained health with 2,200 new jobs over the year. The growth is down, though, from August when 4,900 jobs were added.
Employment (different from wage jobs) grew a little in the state’s four metro areas, Albuquerque, Farmington, Las Cruces and Santa Fe, but remains well below a year ago.
None of the New Mexico job changes were considered a big enough deal to be called statistically significant by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (, which also released figures November 22.