LCSN: State remains dead last on jobs; Martinez, lawmakers aim to boost employment

January 22, 2014. Retrieved online January 22, 2014 from Bruce Krasnow, in the Las Cruces Sun-News

[Excerpts below reprinted with permission: Read the complete Las Cruces Sun-News article]

SANTA FE >> A year ago, when the New Mexico Legislature convened for a 60-day session, the state was dead last in job growth.

A year later, New Mexico is still dead last in job growth.

The state labor force grew less than 1 percent during the most recent three-year period, from Jan. 1, 2011, the day Gov. Susana Martinez assumed office, through Nov, 30, 2013, according to data provided to The New Mexican by Christopher Erickson, an economist at New Mexico State University.

Joining New Mexico in the bottom five for the three-year duration are Alaska, Maine, Alabama and the District of Columbia.

The analysis this year shows there was some job growth during the Martinez administration, as a year ago the state was one of two still showing employment losses.

“They’re still very concerned and they’re scared. They’re really not feeling that comeback,” said Beverlee J. McClure, president of the Association of Commerce and Industry, who served alongside lawmakers on an interim committee called the Jobs Council to develop an economic development strategy for New Mexico. “But we saw the states that are adding jobs, the states that are coming back from the recession, have a plan and that plan is statewide and is regionalized so every region has a piece of that. It’s a very, very important first step.”

“New Mexico’s slow growth is attributable to federal sequestering,” economics professor Erickson in an email last week. “Federal spending accounts for a higher share of income in New Mexico than in any other state. Of course, many have argued for reduced dependence on federal spending as important to development in New Mexico, but how to get there from here is not obvious. Certainly, there are no quick fixes.”

In her Tuesday speech, the governor also touted a new report from Ernst & Young that shows the business tax cuts and reforms from last session are starting to get noticed.

She said New Mexico now has the best manufacturing tax structure in the West and has enacted “the most significant tax reform in a generation” that is “sending the loudest message yet that New Mexico is striving to become a business-friendly state.”

Terry Brunner, state director of rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who serves on the Jobs Council, also said Wednesday that New Mexico needs to be smarter with the way it interacts with the federal government and show it has defined economic targets and priorities.

“What other states are doing is readjusting to the new federal climate,” he said. Don’t just “sit back and take the cuts, but be aggressive and thoughtful in how to work with the feds these days.” Brunner added that 160,000 jobs “is a huge lift for this state. However, if you have clear targets and a strategy behind it, you can get it done.”

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