- Associated Press - Saturday, December 22, 2018

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show New Mexico’s headcount remains largely flat while other states in the western region have among the fastest-growing populations in the nation.

The figures show Nevada and Idaho grew the fastest during a 12-month period that ended in July. New Mexico had a population growth rate of just 0.1 percent.

The state has been slogging around below 2.1 million since crossing the 2 million mark in 2008, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

There were population decreases in 2014 and 2015. Since 2013, New Mexico has seen more people moving out of the state each year than moving into the state, known as negative net migration.

In 2018, New Mexico had 3,509 more people move out than move in. However, that was the lowest net-migration loss since 2012, according to the census statistics.

“That is really the story,” said Robert Rhatigan, associate director of Geospatial and Population Studies at the University of New Mexico. “The migration piece is what separates us from our neighbors. Our neighbors recovered from the recession, and we didn’t. People left for better economic opportunities.”

New Mexico competes with metropolitan areas like Denver, Salt Lake City and Phoenix, which are booming with higher-paying jobs. “As long as neighboring states are offering better-paying jobs, it will be difficult for the numbers to turn around,” Rhatigan said.

He noted that since 2010, 62,000 more U.S. citizens moved out of New Mexico than arrived here. But 27,000 more international citizens, mostly from countries to the south, arrived in New Mexico than departed.

Overall, the new estimates placed New Mexico’s population on July 1 at 2,095,428. That reflected a gain of a little over 2,000 residents in 12 months.

New Mexico has been chipping away at its low-wage reputation with commitments from Facebook, Netflix, Safelite and Union Pacific.

Dan Ware, spokesman for the state labor department, said that since 2011, New Mexico has added 63,000 private sector jobs and the unemployment rate is now at 4.7 percent.

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