Post-recession consumer spending in New Mexico mirrored national average

Economic IndicatorsAssociated Press

Consumer spending in New Mexico shortly after the Great Recession mirrored the national average with 11 percent growth, but it increased at a faster pace than in most other Western states, according to federal figures released Thursday.

Consumer spending per person from 2009 through 2012 grew 3 percent in Nevada, 6 percent in Arizona, 8 percent in Utah, and 10 percent in Colorado, Wyoming and California, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. But it jumped 16 percent in neighboring Oklahoma, and Texas, Montana and Alaska also had greater percentage increases than New Mexico.

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The recession officially ended for the nation in mid-2009, but University of New Mexico economist Jeff Mitchell said the recession was less severe in New Mexico because the state is home to Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories and several military installations, and it depends heavily on federal spending.

"The bottom line is that our decline was somewhat less than other places ... and our recovery has been much weaker than other places because we are so much a function of what happens in the federal government," said Mitchell, the director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

Consumer spending from 2009 to 2012 reflects New Mexico's benefiting from federal economic stimulus assistance, Mitchell said. Federal payments also flowed to the state for unemployment, Social Security and other assistance to the elderly and poor.

But since 2012, Mitchell said, New Mexico's economy has lagged as federal spending slowed. The state is at the bottom nationally in job growth since 2009.

"The federal government sort of steps in and puts a floor under things when things get really bad and New Mexico looks relatively OK," said Mitchell. "But when they start phasing out, New Mexico doesn't have much of a private sector to sort of pull things along."