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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On The Econ Beat: Feds Say Real NM And USA Jobless Rate Tops 14%; Workforce Shrinkage Goes on, Plus: State Poverty Crisis Deepens And Calls For Action Rise, And: GOP Legislator Supports Gay Marriage 

Yes, the state jobless rate continues to tick down,standing now at 6.8% but a key reason is the shrinking labor force.

In August of this year the state says the civilian workforce stood at 930,490. In August of 2012 it was at 935,520. It seems people are still dropping out of the workforce here with some moving out. The news:

Counting workers who have left the workforce because they can’t get a job, those who are working part time involuntarily and those the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls marginally attached to the workforce...New Mexico’s (unemployment) rate is 14.1 percent, compared with a 14.7 percent rate nationally.

Job fairs continue to pop up in the face of a tough jobs situation--especially for the lower income and less educated. Today ABQ Westside State Senator Jacob Candelaria has a job fair from Noon until 4 p.m. at the West Mesa Community Center...

They're still moving in down in oil boom country in the SE. Artesia is getting a new $4.8 million La Quinta Inn. Hopefully, the rooms there won't go for the $200 a night that they're seeing in a large swath of the SE...

One of the reasons the hotels are going for $200 a bucks a night in the SE oil patch is because bankers and developers fear building a bunch of houses only to seem them foreclose in an oil price bust. Memories linger of the many ups and downs of decades past. And things again seem to be slowing down in the oil patch...

Southern NM as a whole remains sluggish, according to this piece:

Jim Peach, a border region economic expert based in Las Cruces said...Southern New Mexico's economy is not growing at a healthy pace...To climb out of the Great Recession, El Paso and the region need to grow by 4 to 5 percent. The protracted recession began in 2008.

"We don't have an industry here that is leading us out of the recession," Peach said. "Manufacturing is flat, the retail job rate is not that much greater than it was in 2012. And, while the maquiladora industry is experiencing growth, that may be more important in the future than it is now."

Up in the Four Corners, the area continues to reel from the bear market in natural gas prices. For 2012, Farmington makes the top ten list of metro races with the slowest growth in the USA.

Actually, Farmington in 2012 had no growth. It's real gross Domestic Product has shrunk 2.3% as business declined and people moved out of the area, reports the US Commerce Department. That put Farmington at #10 among the slowest growing metros in the nation.

TWO STATES

While the oil crowd cashes in, the latest poverty stats tell the tale of two states. But instead of 50th we we are 49th and back to saying "Thank God for Mississippi":

More New Mexicans lived in poverty last year than in 2000, according to a report by the Census Bureau. Only Mississippi had a poverty rate higher than New Mexico in 2012...A fifth of the state’s population, about 426,000 people or 20.8 percent, had incomes below the agency’s poverty thresholds last year. That’s an increase of 106,000 residents since 2000, when the poverty rate was 18 percent.


The problem? Simple. New Mexico has never been really serious about reducing the poverty rate. Even today, business tax cuts remain the primary tool for economic development for both Republicans and many Democrats. We dance around the edges of the problem of the growing underclass, treating it like a fire too big to confront.

But over 400,000 New Mexicans are not going to be lifted out of poverty by cutting taxes. It is going to take a concerted, collective effort using the resources of government. It won't be cheap, either.

Right now, Santa Fe is clinging to a surplus of over $600 million--over 10% of the state budget, has over 3,000 state government vacancies some of which could be filled and Permanent Funds that total $16 billion.

No one is asking anyone to "raid" these monies but to invest in human capital in order to reverse the misery. NM Voices for Children comes with a comprehensive plan that could be used as a starting point for a full-fledged attack on the state's social conditions crisis. Among their suggestions:

...Increasing funding for early childhood programs; restoring K-12 funding to pre-recession levels; restoring outreach efforts to enroll all eligible children in Medicaid; raising the state minimum wage; expanding adult basic education programs; and curbing tax cuts that deplete the budget of much-needed revenue without delivering new jobs.

Despite the  mountain of treasure in Santa Fe, the state is pleading poverty while its citizens languish in more poverty than any other state but one. Are we pushing the moral envelope here?

In particular, for the many legislators and business leaders now in their 60's and 70's the urgent question draws near: "Have I done enough?"

TV EXPLAINED


From the New Mexican:

A recent TV commercial funded by a chemical industry group praising Sen. Tom Udall left some New Mexico viewers scratching their heads. Why would the American Chemistry Council...air ads for a senator long known as an environmentalist?...The answer apparently lies in Udall’s leading role in a...bill that would overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act. While the Chemistry Council publicly lauds Udall as promoting “rational, science-based chemical regulation,” environmentalists hope Udall will work to strengthen the pending legislation Though each side comes from a different perspective, both agree the current law badly needs repair.

Udall is chairman of the Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health, So far, he has no announced Republican opponent for his '14 re-election bid.

GAY MARRIAGE

A New Mexico Republican legislator supporting gay marriage? Read on:

Terry McMillan, a Republican state representative from Las Cruces--who had considered joining Mr. Sharer’s lawsuit, but backed away because, he said, he was ultimately not opposed to same-sex marriage--conceded in an interview that marriage equality in New Mexico was “an inevitability.” 

In 2012, McMillan, a Las Cruces surgeon was re-elected by a mere 8 votes. He is expected to get another stiff Dem challenge in '14. Meanwhile...

Nearly two dozen current and former Republican legislators are urging New Mexico’s highest court to declare that state law prohibits same-sex marriage. An Arizona-based group called the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the state Supreme Court in a case that could resolve whether gay marriage is legal in New Mexico. Monday is the deadline for submitting written arguments to the court.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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