NM ranked last in private sector job study

Posted at: 12/03/2013 5:45 PM
Updated at: 12/03/2013 6:02 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

New Mexico is at the bottom of yet another list, and this is one where you don't want to be anywhere near the bottom.

Our state is dead last in the percentage of private sector jobs in the workforce – and number one in the percentage of government jobs and government contractor jobs in the workforce. Economists and political leaders agree – this is no way to grow your economy.

Only about two thirds of our jobs in New Mexico are true private sector jobs. That may sound like a lot, but it's a much smaller share than most other states.

Meanwhile, 31.9 percent of New Mexicans work in government or government contract jobs. The national average is 19.2 percent, according to a study from George Mason University. The lowest is Rhode Island at 14.3 percent. In New Mexico, many of those government and contractor jobs are at our two national laboratories or four military bases--where funding cuts are a constant threat.

"We're going to continue to fight for our labs and our military bases," said Gov. Susana Martinez. "But we can't rely on that federal dollar because it's so unreliable right now. We've got to grow the private sector, that doesn't have  to get a check from the federal government in order to survive."

Even Democratic leaders agree with the Republican governor.

"We still want to try and court jobs for the labs, jobs for the Air Force bases," Sen. Tim Keller said. " That's an important piece of our economy and so we need to continue to do what we can to have that, but at the same time we've got to build the private sector, and that's what requires a plan."

Coming up with a plan is the task of the legislature's new Jobs Council, which says the state needs to grow 16,000 new jobs every year for the next ten years. That's 160,000 jobs.

The council says that's what it will take just to bring New Mexico back to the prosperity it had in 2007, before the Great Recession sank its fangs into our economy.

"Now, I think at least we have an architecture to figure out where we're going to get those jobs," Keller said. "We know they have to come from health care. We know they have to come from a lot of back-office type jobs, and a lot of them have to come from the IT sector. Those are the areas we have to aim for."

"A job creator can go anywhere in the world," Gov. Martinez said. "We want them to choose New Mexico because we're competitive. Our tax rates are competitive. We're able to provide infrastructure where businesses can  come to New Mexico and grow. We need to be able to provide an educated workforce that is ready for those jobs."

One man on the hot seat is the city of Albuquerque's brand new Economic Development Director, Gary Oppedahl, who knows a thing or two about job creation.

"That's why the mayor brought me in and directed me to make Albuquerque the most entrepreneurial-friendly city in the country," Oppedahl said. "My background is in being a serial entrepreneur and starting up several successful companies here in Albuquerque."

Oppedahl started his new job on Monday.