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Survey spotlights NM’s ‘tricky’ path to recovery

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Around 38% of New Mexicans expect someone in their household to lose employment income over the next four weeks – the third-highest rate of the measure of any state in the country behind California and Nevada, according to a survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The agency began conducting the Household Pulse survey during the pandemic and New Mexico has often had one of the highest rates of adults expecting a loss of income for weeks – but the percentage is growing.

In October, the percentage was 24%, but grew all the way to 41% Wednesday before seeing a brief decline. Numbers are determined by survey responses given by residents.

Jim Peach, a retired professor of economics at New Mexico State University, said New Mexico’s high ranking shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“We started out with a situation in which New Mexico had one of the highest poverty rates in the nation,” Peach said. “Our starting point was bad.”

Making matters worse is that two of the state’s key industries – fossil fuels and tourism – have taken big economic hits since the pandemic hit the state, he said. That’s led to many employed New Mexicans feeling insecure about their prospects.

And when people feel their job status isn’t secure, they’re less likely to spend money except on the essentials, which Peach said creates a vicious cycle with other areas of the economy.

But the lack of another federal stimulus bill also has New Mexicans feeling economically vulnerable.

New Mexicans saw a massive 40% increase in personal income in the year’s second quarter compared to the previous quarter, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, due in large part to an influx of money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

But the next quarter saw incomes dwindle by 15%, as federal relief dollars slowly began to shrink and saw no replacement.

Reilly White, an associate professor of economics at the University of New Mexico, said an additional stimulus package could help shore up the economic confidence in many New Mexicans.

“Even though there is a lot of good news to report regarding the trajectory of the economy … many people view it as a tricky road ahead,” White said.

The survey also ranks New Mexico high in the percentage of people at risk of eviction or foreclosure, 49%, and 43% now find difficulty in paying for usual household items.

Peach and White said the numbers clearly indicate that – even with a vaccine in the early stages of distribution – New Mexico still faces a long, painful economic recovery that could take years.

“There’s a great sickness within the economy and we are far (away) from a full recovery,” White said.


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