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State agency reports positive economic news for San Juan County


Matched taxable gross receipts up 14% for quarter

FARMINGTON — Economic activity in San Juan County is showing some signs of life, as the county's matched taxable gross receipts increased by 14% in the third quarter of the fiscal year over the previous quarter, according to figures reported by the New Mexico Economic Development Department.

That increase mirrored the economic activity for most of the state, as 27 of New Mexico's 33 counties experienced an increase in their matched taxable gross receipts, according to a monthly report released by the department on June 7. In fact, the MTGR figure for March in New Mexico was $6.4 billion, the highest monthly total since the $6.8 billion reported in December 2019. It also was the largest amount reported for the month of March in any year since Fiscal Year 2008, according to the state.

"While we realize we have much work to do toward economic recovery, these reports clearly indicate that New Mexico is beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels in all economic sectors," Alicia Keyes, cabinet secretary for the Economic Development Department, stated in a press release

The department describes MTGR 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's MTGR was $711 million for January, February and March 2021, the first time that figure has eclipsed $700 million since the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2020, or October, November and December 2019. The report notes the previous five quarters had all resulted in steady declines in the MTGR for the county, with the last reporting period — the second quarter of FY 2021, or October, November and December of 2020 — bottoming out at only a little more than $600 million.

Still, the news was good only in a relative sense. The report notes that the $711 million in MTGR was the seventh-least amount collected since FY 2004, meaning the county has a long way to go to get back to the level of economic activity it was experiencing in the early 21st century.

The retail trade sector of the economy was by far the largest contributor to the county's MTGR at 33%, more than three times the size of any other industry. Its receipts grew from more than $177 million in the third quarter of FY 2020 to more than $226 million in the third quarter of FY 2021 — a surge of nearly $50 million, or 28%.

Another positive sign for the county was a decline in initial unemployment claims for the quarter. The county had approximately 3,800 claims, down slightly from the nearly 4,000 claims reported for the second quarter of FY 2021.

Claims are far below where they were in the fourth quarter of FY 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was near its height and nearly 6,400 claims were reported. But this is the fifth straight quarter that San Juan County has exceeded 3,000 claims. By comparison, in the second quarter of FY 2020, before the pandemic began, initial unemployment claims totaled less than 1,000.

Authors of the report said the latest numbers give some reason for optimism, but they tempered that outlook with a note of caution.

"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," they wrote.

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