Southern New Mexico Economic Indicators
Fourth Quarter 2022
|Las Cruces economy dashboard, December 2022|
|Job growth (annualized)
||Avg. hourly earnings
||Avg. hourly earnings y/y
Southern New Mexico’s economy slowed on many fronts during the fourth quarter. Employment, home listings, cross-border trade and the rig count dropped. However, unemployment continued to decline. Potash prices were little changed, but copper prices spiked.
Payrolls shrink in fourth quarter
Las Cruces payrolls contracted 1.6 percent, or by 308 jobs, in the fourth quarter (Chart 1). This was the first quarter of negative job growth since third quarter 2021, when payrolls contracted 1.4 percent. Employment fell an annualized 8.1 percent in trade, transportation and utilities (235 jobs), 51.6 percent in information (98) and 8.8 percent in construction and mining (94). Manufacturing, financial activities, and professional and business services also lost jobs in the quarter. Industries with employment gains included leisure and hospitality (383 jobs), education and health services (115), government (57) and other services (2).
Overall, Las Cruces employment grew 2.4 percent in 2022, slightly exceeding prepandemic yearly growth rates but falling short of the 2021 increase (6.1 percent). The metro area added 1,758 jobs last year, with most gains concentrated in government (766), education and health services (697), leisure and hospitality (413) and professional and business services (196). Industries with job losses in 2022 include trade, transportation and utilities (484) and financial activities (100).
Unemployment continues to decline
Southern New Mexico’s unemployment rate fell to 4.0 percent in December, down from a recent high of 4.8 percent in September (Chart 2). Unemployment ticked down to 4.6 percent in Las Cruces and 3.9 percent in New Mexico.
The housing market in Doña Ana County, home to Las Cruces, showed signs of slowing in January as median home prices were relatively constant at $369,625 (Chart 3). Prices were flat in January after growing 1.2 percent in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, home listings fell from 690 in December to 669 in January. In the final quarter of 2022, listings rose 2.8 percent.
Monthly trade through the Santa Teresa port totaled $2.1 billion in December, down $1.1 billion from September, when the port hit its highest trade level since May 2019 (Chart 4). In the fourth quarter, imports fell 22.6 percent, and exports were down 26.7 percent.
Rig counts and oil production down
The New Mexico rig count fell for the fourth consecutive month in January, dropping to 96 from 102 in December (Chart 5). Crude oil production declined in November, down 1.3 percent from October but up 21.2 percent from November 2021.
Potash prices moderate as copper prices surge
In addition to oil and natural gas, southern New Mexico's economy is dependent on other commodities, such as potash, copper and silver. The price of potash, which is used in fertilizer, increased dramatically after producer Russia invaded Ukraine and was hit with sanctions. The tighter supplies have contributed to a rise in food prices. Potash prices fell 0.4 percent in January to $587 per metric ton after increasing 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter. Copper prices spiked 7.0 percent in January after rising 5.4 percent in the last quarter of 2022.
NOTES: Data may not match previously published numbers due to revisions. All New Mexico counties within the Federal Reserve’s Eleventh District are counted as part of southern New Mexico. Las Cruces is excluded from southern New Mexico to better gauge unemployment levels outside the region’s largest population center.
About Southern New Mexico Economic Indicators
Questions or suggestions can be addressed to Aparna Jayashankar at Aparna.Jayashankar@dal.frb.org. Southern New Mexico Economic Indicators is released quarterly.