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City receives mixed economic signals

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The City of Las Cruces is receiving mixed signals about its economic health based on its 2019 fourth-quarter analysis.

The city’s unemployment rate (4.7 percent) is higher than the state (4.6 percent) and the national (3.3 percent), the city said in Las Cruces Economic Outlook report, released in January. City economist Francisco Pallades, Ph.D., who prepared the report, said the number of payroll jobs in the Las Cruces metropolitan area has increased from a year ago to about 74,700 non-farm payroll employment in November 2019, an increase of about 600 jobs over the year before.

He said the area’s 2,416 unemployed has also increased because of an improved labor market that is returning disappointed job seekers to the available labor pool.

Pallades’ presented other key findings to the council, as well.

  • The number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cases by Doña Ana administrative offices was 27,199 in November 2019, a decrease of 150 cases from November 2018.
  • The city had fewer new businesses registrations and more business registration renewals, as the total number of new business registrations for the first 11 months of 2019 was 485, down from 562 during the first 11 months of 2018. Business registration renewals for November 2019 were 146, up from 66 in November 2018.
  • Median listing home prices are increasing. The median listing home prices in November 2019 provided by Zillow.com was $209,900 and $217,530 for Realtor.com. This represents an increase in the average year-to-year change in listing prices of $22,290 for the two websites. City Community Development Director Larry Nichols said the average home price in Las Cruces is about $285,000.
  • The city’s median household income was about $40,000 annually, which has stayed at about the same level since at least 2010. The state’s annual median income was just under $44,000 in 2010 and rose to almost $50,000 in 2018.
  • There were 9,623 new and repeat visits to Plaza de Las Cruces in January 2020, compared to 11,890 in December 2019, 8,995 in November 2019, 10,921 October 2019, 6,980 in September 2019 and 7,531 in August 2019.
  • A cost-of-living comparison from the third quarter of 2019 showed Las Cruces had a composite index of 88.3 (out of 100) compared to the average U.S. city. That includes lower costs for housing (73.8), utilities (83.3), transportation (99.1), health care (96.8) and misc. goods and services (90.5). The city’s cost for groceries (107.2) was higher than the average U.S. city.

Pallades said Las Cruces is considered a “Walmart-dominated city,” because that chain sells about 57 percent of the groceries sold in Las Cruces, thereby discouraging other grocery stories from entering the market.

  • Annual new business permits have declined from more than 750 in 2010 to fewer than 600 in 2018, largely because of a lot of volatility in home-based business, said city Acting Building and Development Services Administrator Tim Pitts.
  • In terms of industry’s value of goods and services produced within the region, the main driver of the city’s gross metropolitan product is state and local government (28 percent), according to 2017 figures. Second is finance, insurance, real estate and rental/leasing (16 percent), followed by educational and health care services (11 percent) and professional and business services (eight percent).

View the entire 42-page report by entering City of Las Cruces economic development in a web search, which will take you to the City of Las Cruces Economic Development Department page. Click on “economic outlook” and then “report” to see the document.