The Albuquerque metro area had the 170th strongest economy heading into the pandemic, and in the years following, its economic ranking improved — albeit not as much as some might hope — to 118th, according to a study from Brookings Metro.
That ranks the Albuquerque metro area near the bottom out of the 192 metro areas included in the study, but represents an improvement from its previous ranking. The state’s largest metro area — which accounts for half of New Mexico’s population at roughly a million residents — joined more than four dozen other metro areas in the “stagnant” category in the Brookings study.
Brookings focused on how inclusive growth — “economic growth that results in prosperity and closes disparities,” says Brookings’ Joseph Parilla — was impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study looked at economic measures such as wages, employment rates and productivity across four categories that include growth, prosperity, racial inclusion and overall inclusion.
The data was pulled from U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and private sector data company Lightcast. New Mexico still remained in the “stagnant” category instead of joining the “tested,” “resilient” or “emergent” categories in the newest study. Parilla said that speaks to the metro area’s economic challenges.
“Relative performance improved but unfortunately it wasn’t good enough to lift it out of the ‘stagnant’ category,” Parilla said. “Clearly the data suggests there are some economic challenges in the Albuquerque region.”
According to Brookings, 71% of metro areas in the western United States had above-average scores prior to COVID, including Boise, Idaho, Salt Lake City, Utah and Boulder, Colorado. A much-improved score following COVID came in the Colorado Springs metro area, which moved from 119th pre-pandemic to sixth place.
But while Albuquerque’s ranking improved, it didn’t face challenges that some other Western metro areas faced. For instance, the Denver metro area ranking dropped from eighth pre-pandemic to 121st.
Out of all the regions in the study, the Northeast had the highest level of “stagnant” metro areas at roughly 43%. The West region had the highest level of “resilient” metro areas at 31.8%, followed by the South at 31.3%, according to Brookings.
While the Albuquerque metro area remained in the “stagnant” category, it wasn’t alone — 51 other metro areas joined them on that list. Most metro areas were in the “stagnant” category out of the four categories during both periods. From 2011 through 2021, Albuquerque ranked 47th out of 57 metro areas listed in the large category — which are metro areas that have populations between 500,000 and 1 million. In particular, the Albuquerque metro area ranked 37th in inclusion, 39th in prosperity, 48th in growth and 53rd in racial inclusion among large metro areas from 2011 through 2021.
“I mean, in many ways, the pandemic didn’t disrupt this fundamental trend of people and economic activity moving from the Midwest and the Northeast to the South and the West — that has been a long-term trend going on for decades,” Parilla said. “The states surrounding New Mexico — Texas, Arizona, Utah, Colorado — have experienced really significant growth. And New Mexico in some ways hasn’t experienced that same trajectory.”