Created: 06/26/2014 6:44 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4
How about a double barrel load of rough news for New Mexico’s struggling economy? Our state now has a shrinking workforce, while it's largest city, Albuquerque, is in the worst economic recovery of any major metro area in the nation.
Unlike the unemployment rate, the workforce participation rate shows not only how many people are working or actively looking for work – it shows how many are not working. In New Mexico that number is on the rise. The Rio Grande Foundation – a conservative/libertarian think tank – uses U.S. department of Labor statistics to calculate New Mexico’s workfo0rce participation at 54 percent – the lowest in the southwest region.
“The findings were, to say the least, shocking,” said the foundation’s director, Paul Gessing. “New Mexico had been gaining workers all the way back to the mid -1970s, and then that participation rate literally fell off a cliff as the Great Recession happened.”
People leave the workforce to retire all the time, but there’s more going on here nowadays.
“People on the margins, they might choose not to go to work,” Gessing said. “They might take welfare benefits. They might stay at home to raise their kids. They might go to school, to college.”
Meanwhile the world-famous Brookings Institution says the Albuquerque metro area is now back in a recession, a double dip, losing jobs for at least three consecutive quarters, sliding back toward the low point of the Great Recession itself. Nationwide, job growth is increasing. In New Mexico, it’s decreasing.
So what is wrong with our state? Many economists will tell you it’s too great a reliance on government jobs, which are withering away, especially in the federal government. At the same time New Mexico is not exporting enough goods and services outside the state, to bring in new money to grow the economy.