NM 'left behind' in wage growth - Albuquerque Journal

NM ‘left behind’ in wage growth

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque’s skyline, looking west from Downtown. Albuquerque dropped on an annual list that ranks cities for job, wage and tech-sector growth. (Journal File)

Albuquerque dropped precipitously on an annual list that ranks the top cities in the nation for job, wage and tech-sector growth.

The Milken Institute, a California-based nonprofit think tank, released its most recent report on the best-performing cities in the country earlier this week. In it, Albuquerque ranked 161st overall out of 200 large cities, down from 125th last year. The decline was the 14th-largest of any city on the list.

Kevin Klowden, who oversaw the study for the Milken Institute, said Albuquerque’s ranking suffered from stagnant wages and relatively slow high-tech industry growth over the past several years.

“What happens is that you wind up in a situation where even if a city is adding jobs, it’s not doing it in a way that’s lending itself to a healthy enough economy,” Klowden said.

The report, which Milken has produced annually since 2002, evaluates large and small cities across nine individual metrics, tracking job growth, wage growth and the concentration of tech-sector jobs in a city. Klowden said the report is designed to provide a snapshot showing how dynamic and resilient each city’s economy is.

Michael Lin, one of the study’s authors, said Albuquerque has historically fared relatively well in categories focusing on the concentration of tech workers in the city, due in part to the presence of Sandia National Laboratories there. However, the report showed that Albuquerque has seen relatively little high-tech Gross Domestic Product growth over the past several years, which Lin attributed in part to a relative lack of industry diversity within the tech sector.

“If you look at San Francisco or San Jose, they have something more than national defense,” Lin said.

Albuquerque has also suffered from poor wage growth, according to the report, despite a significant decline in its unemployment rate in recent years.

Albuquerque ranked 177th in wage growth from 2017 through 2018, and 167th in wage growth over the past five years.

“This is a trend that’s been going on for a while,” Klowden said.

Lin added that the slow wage growth may be due to Albuquerque’s high number of government jobs, which he said tend to have more steady wages than private-sector jobs.

The slow wage growth extended to New Mexico’s other metro areas, according to the report. Among small metros, Santa Fe ranked 166th and Farmington placed 196th on the list of 200 small cities. While Klowden said he was encouraged by Farmington’s relatively strong recent job growth in 2018 and 2019, he added both cities were hurt by stagnant wages.

“The state is being left behind in wage growth,” Klowden said.

The only city to rise in the rankings was Las Cruces, which jumped from 173 last year to 102 in this report. The southern New Mexico city posted strong tech growth in 2019, which Klowden credited to a growing defense and aerospace industry anchored in part by new jobs at nearby Spaceport America.

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