New Mexico workforce getting smaller

Created: 12/20/2013 6:34 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The announcement of 100 new jobs at Eclipse Aerospace in Albuquerque comes along at a perfect time – right when the latest numbers from the U.S. labor Department paint a pretty grim picture of New Mexico’s economy at the end of the year.

The jobs are well-paying manufacturing jobs – the kind that dried up and blew away in New Mexico during the recession. The trouble is, a lot of working people dried up and blew away, too – and that trend is still with us.

November numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tell the story. In November 2012 the state’s workforce – that’s people either working or actively looking for work – was about 937,800 strong. In November 2013 it was 918,800  - a drop of 19,000 people! Just from September to November 2013 the state lost 5,800 people in the workforce. These are people who are either giving up, or going back to school, or moving to other states where jobs are more plentiful.

“A lot of it is federal job losses,” said state Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela. “The unpredictability of what’s happening in Washington DC is weighing heavily. New Mexico is the most dependent state on the federal government. We need to privatize our economy, grow private sector jobs. That’s what we need to do in 2014.”

The city of Albuquerque’s economic development director, Gary Oppedahl, forsees a brighter 2014.

“There’ll be more light at the end of the tunnel,” Oppedahl said. “We’ll start to see the light. We’re hoping for a glare that’s blinding – we’ll have to wear shades!”

“We are predicted to be one of the better economic cities for 2014 in the country,” said Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry. “That’s according to outside studies. We want to make sure we’re just pushing the envelope to create new jobs.”

That envelope better have a paycheck in it. New Mexico ranked worst in the nation for personal income growth in the third quarter of the year, at 0.4 percent. Mississippi, of all states, had the highest growth at 1.9 percent. The national average was 1.1 percent – well above New Mexico’s growth rate.

The state Workforce Solutions Department reports New Mexico’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.4 percent in November, down from October’s 6.6 percent. The county with the worst jobless rate is Luna County – 15.7 percent. Harding County, where cows outnumber humans, had the best unemployment rate at a mere 3.6 percent.

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