Monday, August 12, 2013

Lipstick On A Pig? Efforts To Repaint Local Economic Picture As Mayor Vote Approaches 

Lipstick on a pig
Are they trying to put lipstick on a pig? The local economy remains flat but as the October 8 mayoral election draws near, there appears to be an effort to repaint what has been the worst economic picture this area has seen in its modern history. The message: everything is coming up roses. Take a look:

Albuquerque’s private sector employment is growing faster than Tucson, matches El Paso and is only slightly slower than Colorado Springs. New business registrations in Albuquerque are 9.5 percent higher than two years ago. Building permit revenue in fiscal year 2013 grew 16 percent, industrial and office rental rates are up, and property and gross receipts tax collections are up.

What they don't say is that while gross receipts tax collections have recently been coming in stronger--at a 4% growth rate--gross receipts collections for the 12 months that end June 30 were an anemic 1.3%--well below the rate of inflation.

And while industrial rental rates are up, they are up from a low $6.50 a square foot--where they sat for over a year--to $6.75 a square foot. That's a sign that the worst is over but hardly a forecast for a robust recovery.

In fact, in the July survey by the On Numbers Economic Index the ABQ metro area ranked 92 in economic vitality in 102 metro areas in the USA, Colorado Springs ranks 78th and Tucson comes in at 81.

Maybe the paper and Mayor Berry are looking at a couple of recent months when it comes to private sector emplyment, but the On Numbers index has us growing those jobs by 1.5% in the past year. El Paso was at 1.82%

And then there is the quality of the private sector job growth we are getting. Much of it seems to be at pizza and hamburger joints.

Once again, Intel can't make its local hiring quota because it can't find workers around here who are qualified.

Regardless of the short-term it is the ABQ area's long-term prosperity that remains at issue.

The number of people living in poverty in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District (ABQ area) grew by 29 percent between 2000 and 2011, according to a report by the Brookings Institute. In 2000, 81,035 of the district’s residents were below the federal poverty level. In 2011, the number was 114,522, and in that time the district’s poverty rate grew by 3 percent from 14.3 percent to 17.3 percent.

What do the mayoral candidates have to say about that?

Thankfully, there will be more growth in construction jobs in the months ahead thanks in large part to government financed projects such as the $93 million Paseo Del Norte expansion as well as state capital outlay projects. But government employment--a major ingredient of our economic health--continues to be slack. 

Not to bash any nascent economic recovery. but what about a vigorous debate over the city economic future in the less than two months left in this mayoral election?

There may be some roses sprouting in the garden, but they are still being crowded by the dandelions. 


There is indeed a great irony that Mayor Berry is touting economic recovery based on government-funded construction projects. We've been pounding the table for years for more government stimulus here. The Republican Mayor seems to be joining us. All we can say is "Welcome aboard, Mayor. We've been waiting for you."

(And soon the federal Medicaid expansion under Obamacare and signed off on by Governor Martinez will start adding hundreds of jobs to the state. What was that about "government" not creating jobs?)

We are not hearing about or seeing regular announcements of major job expansion by local businesses or any news of any companies coming in here. And we're not seeing any big real estate deals, either. That really tells the tale of an economy that is sputtering along but lacking vitality. The problem remains of giving the educated 20 and 30 somethings reason to stay. In fact, we're still getting stuff like this:

An architect/reader reports:

I just heard that Gannett Fleming West is closing their ABQ office. It is a large, regional engineering firm that has on its payroll anywhere from 20 to 50 employees at a very high pay scale.

And another reader points out the jump in unemployment in ABQ and the state and says:

You wonder what the real rate of unemployment is when more people start coming out of the weeds looking for jobs. 

He is keying off this news:

The unemployment rate in New Mexico and its four major metropolitan areas increased dramatically in June as more people joined the workforce, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state’s jobless rate jumped to 7.6 percent in June from 6.4 percent in May, according to the BLS figures....In the Albuquerque metro, the jobless rate grew to 7.8 percent from 6.6 percent; in Farmington, to 7.6 percent from 6.2 percent; in Las Cruces, to 8.5 percent from 7.3 percent; and in Santa Fe, to 5.9 percent from 5 percent.

Those are politically potent numbers for the Martinez and Berry administrations, but the Democrats have to connect the dots. They haven't had much success thus far. But Democrat mayoral hopeful Dinelli has time to make the case.

It's the kind of news that if used effectively could keep Mayor Berry from garnering 50% of the vote October 8 and being forced unto a run-off election.


One of the Alligators was out at the airport shortly after mayoral candidate Dinelli announced he would like to see a $300 million expansion of the facility so it could become a hub for international travel and more cargo shipping. But first Pete may want them to fix the sign out at the Sunport. We wouldn't want those international airlines or cargo companies to miss us...And a final thought for today:

"If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell” Philip Henry Sheridan (1831~1888)

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