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Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Jobs Blog: State Government Shrinkage, But Politicals Survive, Plus: College Degree No Guarantee For NM Youth Anymore, Also: Latest Polling 

If you don't think the New Mexican government has been downsized, think again. The New Mexican's Kate Nash has been tracking state employment since the bear market embraced the state four years ago and in her latest report finds that there are 17,917 state government employees. That is down a stunning 30 percent from the 25,500 who held government jobs just before Governor Richardson slipped on a hiring freeze in 2008. And Nash reports just since March 2011 some 1000 jobs have been trimmed from the bureaucracy. The next time you hear someone complaining that government here isn't taking a hit along with the private sector throw those numbers at them.

We are now in an era where the administration has to be careful that we are not just cutting fat, but cutting into the bone as well and not effectively delivering services taxpayers are paying for.

The good news in these jobs numbers for fiscal conservatives is the money we are saving but the bad news is the economy is taking a hit as all those nice paychecks disappear.

There are no obvious answers to the ongoing Great Bear Market, the economic game changer of a lifetime. But there are plenty of jaw-dropping statistics and baffling questions as to what the future holds.

STILL EXEMPT

So what about all those "exempt" employees--many of whom are political appointees and who were bashed by Governor Martinez and the R's during the 2010 campaign? Well, there are still 571 of them on the state payroll. Syndicated columnist Jay Miller reports that is more politicals than Richardson had padding the payroll when he left office. In fact, there were only 504 exempts in March of 2011. Martinez has some 'splanin to do on that one.

SANTA FE SCENE

The local economy in the state capital does seem to have finally absorbed the shock of that government downsizing and now appears to be stabilizing at lower levels. The city of Santa Fe--in a continual downward spiral for four years--says tax collections for the budget year that begins July 1 are projected to be up five percent--their first increase since 2008. But the city is still a long way away from the glory days.

JOBS, JOBS, JOBS

Where are the jobs in New Mexico and where aren't they? The state Workforce Solutions Department publishes a nifty newsletter that breaks down the current jobs scene--the big story of this decade. Much of it is written by staff economists who actually do pretty well for those who practice of "the dismal science." (And in case you were wondering the state jobs watchers say unemployment here in March was 7.2 percent, unchanged from February. In the ABQ metro it was 7.4%).

THE WRONG JOBS?

On the jobs front the overall news is increasingly disconcerting. There is a slow but perceptible downsizing in the prospects for our young people in New Mexico  and across the USA. Take a look at this dispatch sent to us in the reader email:

An analysis of government data conducted for The Associated Press lays bare the highly uneven prospects for holders of bachelor's degrees. Opportunities for college graduates vary widely. While there's strong demand in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities flounder. Median wages for those with bachelor's degrees are down from 2000, hit by technological changes that are eliminating midlevel jobs such as bank tellers. Most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides...Taking underemployment into consideration, the job prospects for bachelor's degree holders fell last year to the lowest level in more than a decade.

And in peeling the onion some more, we see more of the problem for New Mexicans:

For the third time in five years, computer chipmaker Intel fell short of a goal set by Sandoval County to ensure 60 percent of the new hires for its Rio Rancho plant are New Mexico residents. Lack of available individuals with advanced engineering degrees and skills has played a role in the hiring pattern...A report by Intel...showed only 35 percent of the 349 employees the company hired in 2011 were state residents...

Why aren't we producing these engineers when we have Intel right in our backyard? Where is Santa Fe and the Fourth Floor on this? Also, as the economy slowly recovers. the next big debate in the state is the quality of the jobs being created. As they improve, the Governor and other politicians will tout the numbers, but low-skilled labor for nursing homes and hamburger joints is not going to create the incomes needed to provide good standards of living.

WIENER NEWS

Never a dull moment with GOP Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Wiener who is seeking re-election this year and faces a stiff GOP primary challenge. TV news comes with a story of the commissioner's visit to the Philippines and whether it involved a controversial side trip to the Red Light district. Wiener is opposed in the June primary by Lonnie Talbert.

And the newspaper comes with its take:

A Seattle photographer documenting sexual exploitation in the Philippines took pictures last month of Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Wiener posing with young women in the red-light district of Angeles City in the Philippines. Wiener told the Journal he had done nothing untoward....

Does this put up a red light for Wiener's re-election prospects? Stay tuned.

HAPPENING NOW

The Guv announced this week that the ABQ area will add over 100 high-tech jobs from Honeywell in the next year or so, but in the next breath we learn that 60 contract jobs will be lost at Los Alamos Labs,

The slow bleed in government jobs at all levels seems to be offsetting whatever gains are being made elsewhere.

LATEST POLLING

Governor Martinez scores a 54% approval rating in the latest PPP poll and Romney trails Obama by 13 points in our state. Those trend lines are the same as earlier survey. We will not be much of a swing state in the Prez race this year and Martinez's approval is hovering a couple of points over what she was elected with in 2010.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2012
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