Economists forecast slow but positive growth
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Only a few years removed from the great recession, residents still cast a wary eye toward the economy and ask if the country has recovered.
Dr. Eugenio Aleman, director and senior economist at Wells Fargo, and New Mexico State University Economics and International Business Professor Dr. James Peach answered a lot of those questions during a forum at the Las Cruces Convention Center Thursday.
"Jobs will continue to grow but they will grow slowly as they have for the last several years," Aleman said.
Aleman stated the economy is adding jobs at a rate of about 180,000 per year, a bit slower than the 200,000 expected.
Adding to the challenges are almost 10,000 baby boomers retiring daily according to Aleman, but their replacements lack experience or the proper education.
"Firms don't want to hire people that don't have education and that makes the difference," he said.
Aleman said nowadays a college degree is a significant factor in being employed and is evident by the unemployment rate for college educated Americans at 3.5 percent.
"A college degree is pretty much equivalent to having a high school degree," said NMSU student Kylie Arrieta. "It's a basic thing a lot of employers are expecting."
But according to Aleman the jobs might not always be in the degree field or in their hometown requiring the person to move elsewhere.
During the forum, Dr. Jim Peach said some states are seeing slow jobs growth partially due to an unprepared workforce.
Peach, a professor at NMSU, said New Mexico is seeing virtually no growth with only about 12,000 new jobs per year.
He said at that pace the state would fully recover to pre-recession levels in 2019.
But for the first time in several years, Peach predicted there will be no decreases in government jobs.
"That's incredibly important for retail sales and it's incredibly important for the housing market," he said. "It is important throughout the local economy."
In New Mexico almost one in four people work for some sort of public sector agency and in Las Cruces Peach said that number is almost 30 percent.
"Shut down the university, White Sands Missile Range, the public schools and the other public sector employers and this town would dry up and go away," Peach said.
The longtime NMSU faculty member said Las Cruces would be the size of Hatch without the public sector jobs.
Peach said there promise in Southern New Mexico with growth in Santa Teresa, Spaceport America and even downtown Las Cruces.
With the potential for significant jobs growth from those employers, Peach boldly predicted the Las Cruces area will see employment growth of two percent and likely higher than at the state level.