Revival of state's construction industry continues


New Mexico's construction industry continues to rebound, with the percentage of job gains for the 12-month period that ended in May sixth best in the nation.

The state added 3,200 construction jobs over the 12 months, a gain of 7.4 percent. The best state for the period was Rhode Island, which boosted employment 12 percent, with Oregon, Nevada, New Hampshire and Louisiana rounding out the top five.

Construction has joined health care and hospitality as the top growth sectors in the state, and the boost comes just as hiring in mining and energy has stabilized and is no longer a drag on employment in New Mexico. In fact, for the 12 months ending in May, the mining sector, which includes oil and gas exploration, is down just 300 jobs, according to the state Department of Workforce Solutions.

The biggest drag on the state is government jobs, with state and local governments posting job losses over the previous 12 months. The state-funding pinch on local school districts has been especially costly; local education jobs have declined by 600 the past year, a drop of 1 percent.

Spending in construction also is helping the state's bottom line. Gross receipts taxes paid from the sector are up 2 percent so far this fiscal year. April was an especially strong month for state revenue overall, with recurring revenues up $42.1 million, or 7.7 percent, from a year ago. Overall revenue is now tracking at $134 million, or 2.4 percent, above the last consensus forecast that guides the governor and lawmakers when they set spending.

That means the state general fund is likely to end the 2017 fiscal year with more cash in the bank than expected after the recent special session. It will still be under the 5 percent reserve level targeted, but better than when Gov. Susana Martinez was considering possible furloughs just two months ago.

A more detailed look at state finances will be released in late August when economists for the Legislature and the governor's administration put together the next consensus revenue forecast.