San Juan County's economy is improving, but not as much as other parts of New Mexico

Economic news included in quarterly summary is mostly good for New Mexico

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
New Mexico
  • San Juan County's matched taxable gross receipts increased by $33.5 million, or 5%, in the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2021.
  • That figure represented an 11% increase over fourth quarter of FY 2020.
  • San Juan County's year-to-date showing was not as good as that of some other large counties in the state.

FARMINGTON — A summary compiled by New Mexico economic development officials shows that San Juan County's matched taxable gross receipts are increasing, although the county's economic recovery doesn't appear to be moving as quickly as that of other counties in the state.

According to the Quarterly Economic Summary produced by the New Mexico Economic Development Department, San Juan County's MTGR increased by $33.5 million, or 5%, in the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2021 — which includes the months April, May and June -— from the previous quarter.

That figure represented an 11% increase over fourth quarter of FY 2020, which slightly outperformed the statewide average of 10%.

Department officials describe the MTGR figures as the best tax data available to show underlying economic activity, as the data collection process matches a tax payment with reported receipts for each taxpayer by industry.

San Juan County economic growth is better than some, worse than others

San Juan County's year-to-date showing was not as good as that of some other large counties in the state — Santa Fe County posted 32% growth, and Bernalillo County saw a 17% increase — but it was better than the 6% increase registered by Doña Ana County. Catron County led the way with an increase of 149%, while Guadalupe (58%) and De Baca (40%) counties also experienced strong year-to-date growth.

On the flip side, MTGR figures plummeted in Roosevelt (66%), Luna (65%) and Sandoval (11%) counties. Across the state, only six of New Mexico's 33 counties experienced a year-to-date decline, one of the figures included in the summary that led Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes to point to the mostly positive news on the state's economic front.

New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes

"Economic data is very volatile and we still need to help those businesses and workers that are struggling," Keyes stated in a press release accompanying the summary. " But the latest data shows our economy as a whole is rebounding rapidly and the state can recapture the economic momentum and job growth we saw before the pandemic."

More:State agency reports positive economic news for San Juan County

San Juan County's fourth-quarter MTGR showing for FY 2021 didn't stand up quite as well when compared to the fourth quarter of FY 2019 with only a 5% increase, which was less than the statewide average of 8%. The state's larger counties all fared better, with Santa Fe and Doña Ana counties coming in at 12% and Bernalillo County trailing them only slightly at 10%.

Torrance County (269%) led the state in that category, while Catron County (127%) also experienced triple-digit growth over the two-year period. Across the state, five counties lost ground during that time, with Harding (19%), Eddy (18%), Lea (17%) and Los Alamos (16%) counties getting the worst of things.

San Juan County's fourth quarter MTGR for FY 2021 was its best showing since the first quarter of FY 2020, when it took in nearly $800 million. The county's MTGR declined for the next five quarters, reaching a low of approximately $625 million in the second quarter of FY 2021 before starting to climb again in the third quarter of FY 2021.

New Mexico economic trends vary by industry

The MTGR figures vary wildly by industry in San Juan County. A year-to-year, fourth-quarter comparison between fiscal years 2021 and 2020 shows that the arts, entertainment and recreation sector rebounded strongly, with receipts climbing 158%, while mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction was up 133%.

The sectors in the county that fared the worst over the last year were management of companies and enterprises, and public administration, both of which were down 100%.

A two-year comparison in San Juan County shows the construction industry up 166% over FY 2019 and educational services up 32%. Management of companies and enterprises, and public administration, again fared worst at 100% decline.

Strictly on the basis of revenue, the retail trade remains the county's leading MTGR producer, generating growth of more than $42 million in the fourth quarter of FY 2021 — nearly twice that of its closest competitor, mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction, which saw a revenue increase of nearly $23 million.

San Juan County's retail sales boom 'not unexpected'

The summary's authors, department economists Joel Salas and Ryan Eustice, wrote in the section on San Juan County that the retail trade boom was not unexpected.

"Federal policies, including additional direct payments and tax credits, coupled with pent up demand, led to an increase in consumer spending on taxable goods and services during this quarter, which is likely to continue," they write.

The summary shows that the retail trade made up 33% of San Juan County's MTGR for the fourth quarter of FY 2021, dwarfing any other industry. Construction was second at 11%.

The county's initial unemployment claims remained high for the fourth quarter of FY 2021 at more than 4,000 — the highest figure posted during the COVID-19 pandemic since the number of claims reached their peak in the fourth quarter of FY 2020 at approximately 6,500. That number also remains well in excess of the prepandemic figure of approximately 800 claims filed in the second quarter of FY 2020.

"The current unprecedented uptick in initial unemployment claims is clearly tied directly to the COVID-19 pandemic," Salas and Eustice write in the summary. "As vaccination levels and other health indicators continue to improve and result in lessened health concerns and fewer business restrictions, these claims should decline, but it is impossible to predict how quickly employment numbers will return to pre-COVID-19 levels."

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.