Lea County "Oil Patch" Is Center Of NM's Population Gains

May 23, 2013

The Census Bureau reports that Lea County, in the heart of southeastern New Mexico's bustling oil patch, was the fastest growing in the state last year but two-thirds of the counties lost population.

Lea County's population grew by 1.8 percent from 2011 to 2012. State demographer Jack Baker attributes much of that to the booming oil field economy

Sandoval County, which includes Rio Rancho, grew by 1 percent last year.

With New Mexico's economy still weak, the statewide population increased by a meager 0.3 percent from July 2011 to July 2012. All of the growth came from births, because more people left New Mexico than moved into the state, according to the federal agency's population estimates.

Baker said the migration loss is probably because people are looking for jobs elsewhere.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.