Economic expert: NM job growth too slow

LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico manufacturer is expanding and says it is adding hundreds of high-paying jobs to the metro area. But will the jobs make a dent in the area’s attempt to climb out of the recession?

Albuquerque-based manufacturer Accurate Machine announced Wednesday that it will add 250 new jobs at a new headquarters to be built in Los Lunas.

While an economic expert from UNM calls it a positive start, she says it will take a lot more of similar additions to get New Mexico back on the same level of job growth as the rest of the U.S.

Los Lunas Village, Valencia County and state government officials broke ground on Accurate Machine’s new building Wednesday morning. Officials with the state’s Economic Development Department say the event is a product of the state’s “new competitiveness.”

“We’re seeing a great increase in private sector job creation and manufacturing,” said Jon Barela, secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department.

Accurate Machine is an Albuquerque-based manufacturer. By May 2015, the company says it will have moved most of its metal machining and plastic molding business to the Los Morros Business Park near I-25 in Los Lunas.

Owners say the new expansion will allow it to create 250 new jobs for the company.

“We feel that we can bring opportunity to the community,” said Greg Pluemer, co-owner of Accurate Machine.

New Mexico hasn’t had it easy in the recession. Companies like Solo Cup and Merillat Cabinents closed their manufacturing plants during the recession. Others metro-area businesses like Eclipse Aerospace, which makes airplanes, also tech-giants HP and Intel have had big layoffs in the last few years.

However, state officials says this is finally an example of the metro-area coming out of the jobs hole.

“Small business growth and creation, that’s what’s going to move New Mexico’s economy forward,” said Jon Barela.

Meanwhile, a recent report from national research firm the Brookings Institution found that Albuquerque may be the only city of the hundred largest in the U.S. in a so-called “double-dip” recession.

An economic expert for UNM says these new jobs are a start.

“It’s actually absolutely fantastic for Los Lunas,” said Suzan Reagan of UNM.

Reagan is a Senior Program Manager for UNM’s Data Bank, a division of the university’s Bureau of Business & Economic Research. She studies the employment trends in New Mexico. Reagan says the metro-area has a long way to go to catch up with job growth in the U.S.

“U.S. is actually beginning to recover and that we’re still pretty flat,” said Reagan.

She says the metro-area’s slow bounce back is because of the state’s reliance on the Feds, which continues.

“We don’t have enough private sector growth and expansion to cover for the loss in federal jobs,” said Reagan.

She says while small business growth is good, it won’t be what gets the metro-area thriving again.

“What we need to see is strong job growth across a bunch of different industry so that we have a more diversified economy and that we see less reliant on federal dollar contracts,” said Reagan.

Reagan says while New Mexico is adding jobs, right now, UNM’s predicted job growth outlook for the state is only a little more than 1% over the next 5 to 10 years.

Overall, state statistics show New Mexico employers report that about 4,300 jobs have been filed in the state since last July.

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