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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Report: New Mexico On Edge of Plunging Into Another Recession, Plus: Debating Berry's Bus Plan And Martinez Approval Mystery (Cont.) 

Welcome back. Let's get right to more of our real deal biz coverage, the stuff you won't get anywhere else. And that stuff today is recession. It appears the state is on the edge of plunging into an official recession, defined as two quarters of negative economic growth.

That will come as no shock around here. We've reported the stunning news this week that 10,000 applicants filed for 290 jobs at the ABQ Cheesecake Factory that opens today, the devastating impact the oil and natural gas crash has had on the state economy and the plunge in tax collections.  From Bloomberg:

Four states--Alaska, North Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming--are in a recession, and three others are at risk of prolonged declines, according to indexes of state economic performance tracked by Moody’s Analytics. The regions suffering the most are in the flop stage of the energy industry’s boom-to-bust cycle. . . Job gains and losses are key factors that the National Bureau of Economic Research uses to chart U.S. expansions and recessions. Even as U.S. employers added 2.7 million workers in 2015, job cuts last year totaled 18,800 in North Dakota, 11,800 in West Virginia and 6,400 in Wyoming, according to the U.S. Labor Department. The common thread? They all have concentrations of energy companies. . . Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma are all at risk of recession, according to Moody’s. 

We saw the front fangs of a recession when the Legislature this month approved a budget for the next fiscal year that is actually $7 million less than the current one. If recession takes hold it would have to be cut even more because of falling revenues or lawmakers and the Governor would have to entertain a tax increase or other revenue enhancements.

The "R" word is no stranger in Las Cruces. It went into recession last year and remains there, according to NMSU economist Dr. Chris Erickson. The question now is how far and wide does it spread. ABQ's less energy dependent economy could spare it from the worst effects, but the city's economy is anemic at best. UNM and CNM have announced personnel cutbacks, Nob Hill continues to get slammed with vacancies and then there is that terrible employment situation. New Mexico has the highest unemployment rate in the USA.

The state will know at the end of this quarter if it has officially gone into recession by suffering two quarters of negative activity.

BERRY'S BUSES

Mayor Berry's rapid transit plan for a stretch of Central Avenue has a price tag now of $119 million, up from $100 million. You could argue the project, the lion's share of which would be financed from a federal grant, could serve to stimulate the economy, but reader Jerry, a transportation engineer, says it would inflict more economic pain by slowing business:

Joe, Some the things that should standout:

1. The level of service is important because it rates traffic movement from A to F.  I see the restriction from two traffic lanes to one as a big red flag for traffic flow. If the level starts out at C or D  F is standstill traffic) no one will want to get close to Nob Hill.

2. The second big question is loading and unloading transit passengers. These pedestrians will be loading and unloading in the median. That means they have to cross the street with strollers and wheelchairs and packages, slowing the one lane traffic movement to a stand still.

3. My last point is the type of passengers using the transit system will not frequent these businesses in the first place. Many are the poor and homeless. It will not work, bad idea.

Reader Kevin Wenderoth comes with the counterpoint:

Millennials and the population at large are fleeing Albuquerque for cities all over the country. They are going to places that offer viable, dependable alternatives to the private automobile. They're going to New York , San Francisco, Denver, LA and Austin. All of these places have strong public transit and are continuing to invest in projects like BRT and/or light rail.

Why do you think Central and Nob Hill in particular is a fun place to hang out? It's not because it's easy to drive through. It's because it's the most pedestrian-friendly place in the city. For this same reason, there are no comparable retail scenes along Coors, Paseo del Norte, or Tramway. ART will only improve and enhance the pedestrian safety and atmosphere of Nob Hill, and retail in the area, despite some inevitable troubles during construction, will be all the better for it.

Thanks, Jerry and Kevin. We''ll continue to carry comment--pro and con--on the controversial proposal. Berry says he hopes to break ground on the plan by June.

POLL TALK

A Gov. Martinez operative asserts we were wrong when we said there was no polling of the governor's approval rating since her disastrous December holiday pizza party. They produced a poll that they say was taken by Democrats and asked about Martinez's job performance. However, we never said there was "no polling" of Martinez. The operative is wrong.

We said we want to see the ABQ Journal--which recently polled voters' presidential preferences here--to do a poll of Martinez. That would be an independent, nonpartisan objective survey. And to our knowledge there have been none of those since the pizza party. The Dem poll cited by the Gov's machine and taken in January had Martinez over 50% approval. However, another partisan poll we saw taken of parts of western NM showed her below that level.

Until we get a nonpartisan, objective poll--not from candidates or political parties--we do not know the governor's current approval rating. And that's the way it is. . .

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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