Weighing in on Las Cruces job growth and business-friendliness (or lack thereof)

Job growth dismal

Las Cruces businessman Dave Hooker hit a nerve when he complained about the city’s business climate. He said many things that the Rio Grande Foundation has been saying for years about economic policies in Las Cruces and the state.

A few letter-writers took issue with Hooker, but the proof is in the data. Las Cruces has experienced slower job growth than neighboring cities in nearby states.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Las Cruces saw job growth of 0.7% from Feb. 2018 to Feb. 2019. Over the same time span El Paso grew by 1.2%. Overall, large cities in Texas grew by 2.2% while Arizona cities grew by 2.7%. That may not seem like a big difference, but it speaks to many of the points Hooker made in his article. It is also not an isolated example. For years, neighboring states and cities have grown faster than our own.

Whether a business moved due to the minimum wage or the gross receipts tax or some other issue, the fact is that they moved and those jobs and tax revenues are gone.

If you are retiring to Las Cruces (or New Mexico), that jobs data is not a big deal. But New Mexico is losing its young people to other states which have more jobs and better opportunities. The 2019 legislative session only placed more bad policies on top of those already in place.

The good news is that oil production in New Mexico has tripled since just 2012. With oil prices rising, that means that this year’s billion dollar surplus was no fluke, but it also means that the public and Legislature are oblivious to the underlying problems facing Las Cruces and the state as a whole. Watch out if/when oil prices drop.

Paul Gessing, Rio Grande Foundation president