New Mexico population growth trails western states
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s population has grown at the slowest rate in the western U.S. during the past decade, with more people migrating away from the state than arriving, according to research released Wednesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The analysis highlights demographic challenges confronting state and local leaders in New Mexico as they try boost employment opportunities and stem the flight of young professionals and tradesmen to more economically robust states.
From mid-2007 through mid-2017, New Mexico’s annual population growth rate was about 0.5 percent. Population growth in Colorado, Texas and Utah was at least three-times as fast, according to research based on U.S. Census Bureau data.
“New Mexico stands out among its western neighbors,” said study author Matt McKillop, a research officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts. “The West is the region with, long-term, the fastest population growth.”
New Mexico was home to roughly 2,088,000 people in 2017.
McKillop said that the number of people that moved away from New Mexico outpaced arrivals in the year ending on July 1, 2017 — in sharp contrast to neighboring states.
“It’s somewhat rare,” he said. “Only 14 states had that net drop in migration.”
Pew researchers say rapid population growth often translates into greater economic activity and growth in tax revenue for state and local governments — though needs for government services also may increase.
In recent months, New Mexico’s state government has experienced a surge in tax revenues and royalty payments linked closely to a booming oil sector in the southeast of the state.
State Sen. John Arthur Smith, a Democrat from Deming and leading state budget negotiator, said he believes the state economy is “turning a corner” toward more rapid growth. He attributed slow population growth and outward migration in part to an “anemic” recovery from the recession a decade ago.
“In my part of the state, if you don’t have a job you move,” Smith said.
Campaigns to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez in November elections already revolve around efforts to spur job growth and stem outward migration.
In the state capital city of Santa Fe, entrepreneur and newly elected Mayor Alan Webber has placed a priority on attract young and mid-career professionals. Santa Fe-based author and “Game of Thrones” TV producer George R.R. Martin also has highlighted the city’s aging population and economic dependence on tourism and government, while providing financial and logistical support to film productions and local arts startups.