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Study Hands Split Decision to ABQ’s Economy

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New numbers from Brookings Mountain West Mountain Monitor suggest the Albuquerque area is in a jobless economic recovery.

Albuquerque has one of the best-performing metropolitan economies in the nation despite ranking among the worst metro areas for job growth, according to the study, prepared by the Brookings Institution and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Albuquerque’s gross metropolitan product – which measures the output of the area’s economy – increased 5.1 percent from its pre-recession peak in the first quarter of 2006 and 7.9 percent from its recession trough in the second quarter of 2008. That performance ranked Albuquerque 12th fastest-growing economy from pre-recession peak levels among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas and 13th fastest trough-to-peak.

However, employment from the pre-recession peak declined 6.6 percent, 66th among the nation’s metro areas. Albuquerque employment is unchanged from the trough, making it 93rd among the 100 largest metropolitan areas.

Mountain Monitor reported that Albuquerque employment levels “remain at their lowest point since the beginning of the recession” but that “output has been expanding slowly but steadily” since the recession trough.

Lee Reynis, director of the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, said Albuquerque’s jobless recovery matches national trends.

Businesses are trying to avoid risks and remain profitable by innovating and improving productivity. Rather than hire new full-time workers they hire temporary workers, improving and streamline production processes, and invest in labor-saving machinery, Reynis said.

Such jobless recoveries are not unusual, she said. Businesses didn’t start hiring in earnest after the 2001 recession until 2003, and that recession was mild compared to the 2007 recession.

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