Jobs: The So-So, the Lousy, and the Truly Awful

The Santa Fe New Mexican‘s Bruce Krasnow claims that there are “encouraging signs” on the jobs front in New Mexico, because “initial unemployment claims … dropped to below 900 for four of the last seven weeks,” which was “the best showing for the state economy since the summer of 2007.”

Okay, great. But viewed from other perspectives, the Land of Enchantment is still lagging behind, bigtime. Errors of Enchantment has devised a new tool to benchmark where New Mexico stands, compared to its neighbors in the Southwest. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts a regular analysis of 12-month employment growth in the nation’s metropolitan statistical areas. We’ll be looking at New Mexico’s four MSAs, compared with the 49 MSAs found in the state’s five neighbors: Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas.

As depicted in the chart above, right out of the gate, the results aren’t good. Average job growth from March 2016 to March 2017, for the non-New Mexico MSAs, was 1.5 percent. Las Cruces nearly attained the regional pace, at 1.4 percent growth. But Albuquerque (0.5 percent) and Santa Fe (0.2 percent) fared far worse, and Farmington dropped by a depressing -3.2 percent. Looking at the entire country, only Casper, Wyoming (-6.9 percent) and Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana (-5.8 percent) performed more dismally.

The good news is that for the last five years, employment in New Mexico has been on a generally upward path (See chart below.) But the state has yet to regain its pre-Great Recession peak, and as the BLS data show, neighbor MSAs are doing much, much better. The Land of Enchantment remains desperate for proven, powerful policy tools to boost economic development. How much longer do we have to wait?