Tuesday, March 18, 2014

On The Econ Beat: State Job Stagnation; Blame Susana Or Not? Plus: Evidence Mounts That NM's Long-Term Growth Story Has Ended, And: "Innovate ABQ" Baffles  

Here's more grist for the Campaign '14 mill. Or is it? First, the news:

New Mexico’s. . . unemployment rate was 6.6 percent in January 2014, unchanged from December 2013 and down from 6.9 percent a year ago. The rate of over-the-year job growth. . .was a negative 0.5 percent, representing a loss of 3,700 jobs. By far, government saw the largest net decrease of 3,200 jobs since last year.. . .

Governor Martinez has repeatedly blamed the loss of those government jobs on Washington, attempting to deflect blame away from state policies. But government jobs are being reined in at all levels of government as tight belts prevail amid economic stagnation. Also, Republican Martinez has trimmed the state workforce by thousands.

Meanwhile, the governors Martinez competes with for jobs in our six neighboring states are clobbering her. All of them are experiencing job growth, according to the Feds. As one reader put it:

If the problem was the overall economy effecting the entire country the surrounding states wouldn't be on the upswing. NM just can't seem to get out of its own way.

Dems trying to make a case to replace Martinez this year because of the lousy economy are running into roadblocks--a population that often accepts a dreary economy here as "the new normal"; agreement with Martinez that it is all Washington's fault and historically low expectations and aspirations in a state that sometimes has the self-esteem of a 16 year old with a severe case of acne.

The Dems have all the economic stats they need to make their case against the sitting Governor. But it's going to take passion to reach the hearts of the rank and file and move them to their side.


This ongoing transformation of the New Mexican economy into have or have not has seen us ranked as the state with the largest income equality gap in America. And this:

New Mexico has one of the nation’s worst labor force participation rates, at 60 percent in 2011, and one of the lowest percentages of the population that is employed, 54.9 percent.

Nearly half the population isn't employed? What are they all doing? Some collect unemployment. Some  live on the salary of one family member. Some receive disability. Some get veterans benefits. Some get early Social Security at 62. Some cobble together part-time work and supplement it with food stamps and Medicaid.  Some stay at home with mom and dad, unable to find jobs. Some work "off the books." Some are employed in illegal activity. For example, the drug trade probably supports more families than we would like to know. . .


We continue our unvarnished and realistic coverage of the state economy with this. . . .

One of the more bizarre aspects of this long-running downturn is seeing New Mexico pop up on the list of states who have the most people leaving. For 2013, we ranked ninth among the states that United Van Lines annual survey says folks were moving away from. Meanwhile, our neighbors of Texas, Colorado and Nevada ranked among the top states that people were moving into.


The secular (long term) economic expansion of the New Mexican economy dates from about 1942 to 2009--a nearly 70 year run. The Bear Market and the subsequent stagnation now totals over 5 years. This is the longest no growth or very slow growth period since the 30's and the Great Depression. WWII got us out of that rut.

Could winning Tesla's giant factory to make electric car batteries be the spark plug that reverses the downturn this time? Maybe--if it led to spin-off industries that located here. Tesla says the factory will provide 6,500 jobs but we don't know the permanent work force total. And even if Tesla comes in, Intel appears to be leaving, having shrunk its workforce from the 6,000 area to below 3,000 and more layoffs are expected. Tesla would help us recover some of those lost manufacturing jobs but it will take much more to put us on the long-term growth path of the rosy past. . . .


Monahan--Blogging NM
Not to be snarky, but this corner and others interested in such matters are perplexed over the economic development plan called "Innovate ABQ" and that is being pushed by UNM President Robert Frank and ABQ Mayor Richard Berry.  They say it:

focuses on inspiring individual and private-sector innovation as the basis for growing Albuquerque’s economy, rather than continue its historical dependence on government investment.. .

But this is a government town. Always has been. There is no significant entrepreneurial culture here. New Mexicans get government contracts--from the feds, state and local governments--and also jobs.

That doesn't exactly inspire "private sector innovation." Does it?

It seems our economic and political leadership is content whistling past the graveyard and unveiling obtuse economic agendas that give the perception of forward motion. But as the jobs stats above demonstrate, we are still moving backwards or at best treading water.

We can have that entrepreneurial culture and those public private partnerships as well as all the other buzz words the mayor and UNM prez are fond of. But it will take decades. Not years. And it will take confronting the #1 problem this falling-behind-the-times-state of ours faces. You guessed it--the widespread social conditions crisis that has left a very large swath of the population without the skills or knowledge to take on the highly advanced jobs Berry and Frank are touting.

Until New Mexico's leaders are willing to bite the bullet and start burrowing deep into the social and cultural infrastructure that has prevented  hundreds of thousands of Hispanics, Native Americans and African-Americans from maintaining the same educational and living standards as their White counterparts, they will be tilting at windmills. As we've noted before, over 60 percent of the state population is composed of minorities. And that's a majority. . . .

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