A.F. Miller store and home, Farmington, circa 1885, the first store in Farmington. {Public Domain}

Farmington: High Desert Country City … Now Nation’s highest deserted city?

Farmington, New Mexico: America’s Fastest Shrinking City – with unemployment rate of 9.2%.

Looking at the two photos The Candle has posted with this article, Farmington has come a long way since 1885.

But while most cities in the United States have seen an increase in population, at least partially driven by a migration from rural areas, Farmington has not. 

Is the western New Mexico community in danger of becoming an outpost again, as it now holds the distinction of being America’s fastest shrinking city? 

According to a story published yesterday by 24/7 Wall Street, “Over the last five years, the populations of nearly 30 metropolitan areas grew by more than 10%, while the U.S. population grew by 3.7%.”

Not so in New Mexico.

Farmington Civic Center, in Farmington, New Mexico, during the San Juan Medical Foundation’s Cancer Walk-a-Thon on September 27, 2008. By Allen S. Public Domain.

And certainly, not in Farmington where 24/7 Wall Street found “Despite a net increase of several hundred residents between July 2011 and July 2012, Farmington’s population has declined steeply every year since. Due almost entirely to people moving to other parts of the United States, there are now nearly 13,000 fewer people living in the metro area than there were five years ago. The 10% population drop was the largest of any U.S. metro area.” – 24/7 Wall Street, March 23, 2017 (click here for link to full story). 

This unfortunate distinction is not likely to be lost too soon, given the latest economic bad news for the north-western region of the state.

PNM, one of the largest employers in San Juan county, announced last week that they will likely close the last two units of the San Juan Generating Station in Farmington by 2022.

This is a real kick in the gut for an area already facing high unemployment due to low gas and oil prices over the last several years … a region that has relied on energy producing jobs for decades.

As reported in the Farmington Daily Times last week, the San Juan County Chief Executive Office Kim Carpenter stated to the newspaper:

“It’s going to be a major blow to this area, as seven out of 10 taxpayers in San Juan County are related to the power industries,” he said. “We’re staring at losing hundreds of hundreds of jobs.”From Farmington Daily Times story of March 16, 2017, written by Leigh Black Irvin (click here for link to full story).

24/7 Wall Street reported speaking with an expert on population and employment trends in the United States:

“In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., William Frey, senior demographer at public policy think tank Brookings Institute, explained that the continued departure of residents from these metropolitan areas is not surprising for several reasons. The first is that employment opportunities tend to drive population migration, and these cities tend to have weak job markets… 

“The relationship between unemployment and population growth is a self-perpetuating cycle, Frey explained. If young people are disinclined to move to an area because it has fewer job opportunities, the population will stagnate, potentially leading to even greater economic decline, and greater job losses.” – 24/7 Wall Street, March 23, 2017 (click here for link to full story). 

Here are the specifics listed about Farmington in the 24/7 Wall Street story which contributed to Farmington being considered the fastest shrinking city in America:

“1. Farmington, NM

·         Population change (2011-2016): -10.09%

·         Total population: 115,079

·         Per capita income: $37,777

·         Unemployment rate: 9.2%

“Despite a net increase of several hundred residents between July 2011 and July 2012, Farmington’s population has declined steeply every year since. Due almost entirely to people moving to other parts of the United States, there are now nearly 13,000 fewer people living in the metro area than there were five years ago. The 10% population drop was the largest of any U.S. metro area.

“Poor economic conditions may explain the exodus. Some 9.2% of the metro area’s labor force is out of a job, compared to only 4.7% of the total U.S. labor force. At the same time in 2011, only 8.4% of the area’s labor force was unemployed, making Farmington the only metro area where unemployment actually increased over that period.” – 24/7 Wall Street.

The 24/7 Wall Street story was written by Evan Comen, Michael B. Sauter, Samuel Stebbins and Thomas C. Frohlich.

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