Monday, May 09, 2011

Government Jobs Cast Even Bigger Shadow; Their Share Of State Work Force Soars As Private Sector Sags, Plus: Dear Intel, Throw Us A Bone 

Be careful, government cutters. If you use that scalpel too much, you could keep the New Mexico recession hanging around even longer. We say that because while the state's private sector continues to sag, the percentage of the work force employed by government at all levels has soared to 23.1 percent. In late 2007, just prior to the economic crash, government jobs averaged just over 20 percent of the work force.

And you know it's really much higher than that 23 percent. Throw in the thousands of contractors for the defense and energy departments plus the state, cities and counties and government jobs and you wonder just what the percentage would be. It would be interesting to know for sure, but we don't know of anyone who does that type of survey.

Even as government becomes an ever larger piece of the employment pie here, government jobs, like their private sector counterparts, are actually diminishing, but at a slower rate than the private sector thus their increasing percentage. From the latest state report:

Government employment slipped by 2,800 jobs from its year ago total, with job losses reported at all levels. State government reported 1,900 fewer jobs, while local government, the largest of
the three public-sector components, posted a loss of 500 jobs. Federal government employment was down 400 jobs from this time last year, when census work was just getting started.

It's Governor Susana's job to clean up after the Bull Market party and trim government. But she has to find the right balance. Thousands of well-paying government jobs have already been shed or frozen the past two years. Each time we lose another it's a hit to economic activity--shopping, going to the dry cleaners etc. That in turn is a hit to government tax revenue, exacerbating the budget shortfalls for local and state government.

With the private economy here still stalled, there are not a lot of places for the displaced government employees to find a job. As things hopefully pick up that will change. Meanwhile, the Guv and mayors need to be mindful that budget cuts have a downside--if they go too far.


State officials are jumping up and down for joy over the issuance of a revised air quality permit for manufacturing giant Intel which operates a sizable plant at Rio Rancho. They say it positions the state for jobs if and when Intel expands there. Neighborhood opponents were not pleased.

The favorable air permit from the state Environment Department comes on the heels of a major controversy over the firing of Sandoval County Manager Juan Vigil. He was given the axe after he pressured Intel to make good on taxes he says the company owes. He is taking the county to court over his firing.

These are two big breaks for the computer chip maker, so where are the jobs? Intel says we are now "positioned" to get them.

But Intel employment has plummeted from a high of about 5,500 in 2006 to the current 3,300. That's a decline of 40 percent. You won't hear many people around here say that out loud. But as much as the company has contributed to the manufacturing economy of the state (besides it's permanent employees, there are numerous Intel contractors), it is not the player it once was but still casts an intimidating shadow. Maybe that isn't so bad if we were getting more of those nice paying jobs out of the deal, but we aren't.

Take a look at this October announcement from Chandler, AZ:

Intel officials said the company plans to expand its factory site in Chandler and create thousands of jobs while building a sleeker, higher performance microprocessor. Intel officials said the company plans to invest between $6 billion and $8 billion in manufacturing in its American facilities for its next-generation 22-nanometer manufacturing processor across several U.S. factories. The microprocessor will enable sleeker device designs, higher performance and longer battery life at lower costs. The investment will support the creation of 6,000 to 8,000 construction jobs and 800 to 1,000 new permanent high-tech jobs in the United States, with a significant portion of those coming to Arizona.

Then there's the recent expansions in China and the state of Oregon:

Intel opened a 300mm wafer fabrication facility in China, its first semiconductor manufacturing plant in Asia. Meanwhile, the chip maker is also expanding in Oregon with a $6- to $8 billion investment in five 22nm fab projects targeting processors for mobile devices.

Intel opened the company's first Asia-based advanced chip manufacturing plant in China, the company said Oct. 26.

So what about us?

Excuse us for being the guy at the dinner table who doesn't use his napkin, but someone has to ask.

It seems recent Intel expansions are big on the construction phase but not as big as they once were when adding permanent employees to make the new chips. That's efficiency. But New Mexico still wants and needs our share. Positioning us for jobs is one thing, providing them is another.

And it's not like we're bashing the company which has been around here since 1980. We like them so much we want more of them here--just like Arizona, Oregon and China.


Hector Balderas announced a new round of endorsements last week--mostly politicos from the north. So now Rep. Martin Heinrich, touring the state and dueling with Balderas for the 2012 Dem US Senate nomination, comes with his own list---from the south:

Former Rep. J. Paul Taylor endorsed my campaign along with State Representative Joni Gutierrez, State Senator Steve Fischmann, and former Rep. Jeff Steinborn. I’m honored to have them standing with me in this campaign.

Okay, Hector has the north covered and Martin has come with the south. How about ABQ, fellas? Whose up first?


It was a dismal night for former Governor Gary Johnson at the Fox News presidential debate. The carnage was detailed in the WaPo:

Gary who?: Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson came into the debate with low expectations and managed to underperform them. Sensing he was bordering on irrelevance, Johnson asked the moderators for more questions but when he got them he did next-to-nothing with them. It’s hard to see how Johnson builds any momentum with a performance like the one he gave Thursday night.

Pretty scathing, but no surprise here as we've been saying from day one that if Bill Richardson could not break through on the national stage, Gary Johnson sure wasn't going to. (That was one of the safest political predictions we'll ever make.)

But segments of the New Mexico press seem mesmerized by his quixotic campaign and give it acres of space, just about all of it favorable. Why? We detect minimal public curiosity about Johnson who left the governorship in 2002 and has essentially been in political hiding since. He has some interesting ideas (ending the wars is one of them) but his credibility caves when he advocates cutting the Medicare and Medicaid budgets by nearly half and repeatedly advocates for legalizing marijuana.

His infinitesimal chances of breaking through came and went Thursday night when he seemed dumbfounded and out of place. Gary is a master at tackling the ski slopes, but when it comes to
national politics, he is stuck on the beginner's trail.


The state economic development department is pointing fingers at Big Bill's administration for very slow payments for Spaceport contractors, but that's the past. The new team owns it now and the taxpayers expect smooth oversight from the new administration. The news:

A backlog in Santa Fe is causing payment delays of more than two months for about 10 spaceport construction firms, said Christine Anderson, executive director for Spaceport America, while addressing the spaceport's governing body in late April. The companies affected include a mix of the primary contractors--including Summit West--and sub-contractors involved in both construction and professional services, Anderson said.

Anderson, speaking to board members, highlighted a complex invoice approval process that routes paperwork through a series of state agencies. She said she began addressing the concerns soon after being hired. "People are still working, but we have to work very hard to get them paid because that's not a good situation," she said.

The Spaceport falls under the state's economic development department which is headed by Jon Barela. If the slow billing isn't straightened out soon, the fingers will be pointing at him.

This comes from David Campbell, the longtime ABQ attorney and former chief administrative officer for the city of ABQ who left to join the Foreign Service:

We got our first assignment in the Foreign Service to Port Louis, Mauritius! Beginning in August, 2011, I will be the Political/Military Officer in the U. S. Embassy there. Shelly and I are thrilled with the assignment, and we look forward to getting there and starting work.

You can find Campbell's blog here.

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