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NM oil patch fuels a population boom

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Employment signs in the city of Hobbs, where businesses are competing for workers to keep up with development in the midst of an oil boom. The Census Bureau reports that the community of Hobbs was the second fastest-growing in New Mexico from 2012 to 2013. Carlsbad was No. 1 with a growth rate of 3.4 percent. (Jeri Clausing/The Associated Press)

Employment signs in the city of Hobbs, where businesses are competing for workers to keep up with development in the midst of an oil boom. The Census Bureau reports that the community of Hobbs was the second fastest-growing in New Mexico from 2012 to 2013. Carlsbad was No. 1 with a growth rate of 3.4 percent. (Jeri Clausing/The Associated Press)

SANTA FE – Carlsbad and other oil patch communities in southeastern New Mexico are the fastest growing in the state, the Census Bureau reported Thursday.

According to the agency’s latest estimates, the population of Carlsbad increased about 3.4 percent, to 27,653 people, from mid-2012 to July 2013.

Nearby Hobbs was close behind with growth of 3.1 percent.

The six fastest-growing communities were in Lea and Eddy counties in the oil-rich Permian Basin of southeastern New Mexico, which has experienced a boom in energy production because of advances in drilling technologies.

Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway said the oil industry is drawing workers to the area, but that potash mining, tourism and agriculture also are helping fuel the city’s economy.

“It was just growing so fast that housing couldn’t keep up. They’re building as fast as they can,” Janway said in a telephone interview.

Near the community are Carlsbad Caverns National Park and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the federal government’s underground nuclear waste dump.

The Census Bureau released population estimates for about 100 large and small incorporated places in New Mexico.

Janway and Carlsbad City Administrator Steve McCutcheon took issue with the Census Bureau’s population figure for the city, saying they believe the population is much larger than 27,653, based on increases in water meters, water usage and other local data.

“How big the number is, you know, is debatable,” McCutcheon said, “but that it is growing significantly is not. We agree with the census people on that.”

Rounding out the 10 communities with the largest rates of population growth are Jal, 2.8 percent; Tatum, Eunice and Lovington, each at 2.7 percent; Sunland Park, 2.3 percent; Rio Rancho, 1.3 percent; and Red River and Hope, 1 percent.

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