Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Another Body Slam For NM As Jobless Rate Remains Highest In Nation; Wage Stagnation Continues, Plus: NM Senators Point To Long-Term Way Out Of The Economic Funk, And: R's Field BernCo DA Contender 

Another body slam for New Mexico as our unemployment rate in December came in at 6.7%, making it the highest in the nation for the second month running. The state reports the crash in oil prices has, as expected, led to a crash in energy jobs:

Mining (oil, gas etc.) contracted by 2,600 jobs, or 9.2 percent, in December. Growth has been negative since May.

As has been true since the economy went south over five years ago, it is jobs held by the non-college educated portion of the workforce that is feeling the most pain. Take a look:

Construction was down 1,500 jobs, or 3.5 percent. Similarly, transportation, warehousing, and utilities was down 5.1 percent, representing a loss of 1,300 jobs. Retail trade posted a loss of 900 jobs, or 0.9 percent. Manufacturing lost 700 jobs, representing a decline of 2.5 percent.

That trend in losing working class jobs continued when nearly 300 call center staffers were let go when Sprint in Rio Rancho this month announced it was closing.

In the short-term state lawmakers can help by tapping into some of the hundreds of millions of unspent capital outlay dollars that are gathering dust, according to the state auditor. That would spark construction activity.

The state says the generally low-paying leisure and hospitality industry continues to score big gains.


Not only does NM have the highest unemployment rate in the USA report, there's this:

 Wages are low and stagnant: The October 2015 average weekly wage of $709 was the third lowest in the country. Wages fell 0.7% between October 2014 and October 2015, the seventh-worst change.

Again that takes you back to all those waitress and waiter jobs being created here, but not  the higher-paying variety. Not that that's all bad. For a state with a meagerly educated workforce, they can be a lifesaver. And the Martinez administration and the Legislature have stepped up.  Spending on advertising and promotion went from $2.5 million in FY11 to $9.1 million in FY 16.


The R's haven't had a Bernalillo County District attorney since the 1990's but attorney Simon Kubiak will try to change that this year. He says he will seek the GOP nomination for the DA slot. And he's doing it with an interesting Libertarian twist. He says, if elected, the office will not go after recreational users of marijuana or prostitution cases, but instead husband resources to take on more serious crimes. That sounds new, but one of our Legal Beagles counters with this:

The DA's office hasn't prosecuted misdemeanor marijuana cases for 20 years. Those are police officer prosecutions. The same for prostitution. Kubiak's plans aren't really anything new. Just like the Republicans to sell you something you already had--and might not have known it.

Well, that's a taste of what Simon will receive in the general election. He most recently challenged Dem BernCo County Commissioner Debbie O'Malley but lost in the heavy Dem district.

Dem DA candidates so far are Ed Perea and Raul Torrez. They will duel out in the June primary. Kubiak, 41, a graduate of Valley High, will be the decided underdog but remember back in the day when R's got elected regularly to the DA post?

DA Kari Brandenburg has not made a formal statement on re-election plans. She has held the office since 2001.


Senators Udall & Heinrich
The long term challenge the state faces in pulling itself out of second-world status is not lost on NM Senators Udall and Heinrich. On the opening day of the current legislative session they again urged the lawmakers to approve a constitutional amendment that would ask voters to use a small portion of the state's nearly $15 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund for very early childhood education:

. . .  A disproportionately high number of New Mexico's children tragically and unfairly experience hunger, poverty and poor health, Udall and Heinrich wrote. New Mexico is at a critical juncture. The economy is stalled, families are struggling, and more needs to be done to ensure our children are in the best possible position to succeed later in life.. . Education provides children with an opportunity to improve their own lives and the lives of their families. Unfortunately, our education system is also failing. New Mexico ranked 49th in education in a recent national report, yet study after study shows that children who have access to high-quality child care and pre-kindergarten programs are more likely to succeed in later grades, leading to higher graduation rates and providing a path to the middle class. We owe it to our children and our economy to make smart investments in effective early childhood programs that we know can help families break the cycle of poverty. Nothing is more important for our state at this time than improving the well-being of our children," the senators concluded. If we fail at this, we fail at everything else, including long-term economic progress. 

Critics of the Senators claim taking money from the immense fund is a "raid" that will harm future generations. Hmm. What would the generations from the 1950's and 60's think of New Mexico having the worst childhood poverty in the USA and ranking nearly last in education? Is that the future they envisioned?

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