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ABQ: Ten Years Of Economic Mediocrity

ABQ: Ten Years Of Economic Mediocrity

Seven of the area's 10 economic sectors are still – more than nine years later – below their pre-recession jobs levels.

The Albuquerque metro area’s economy plunged off the cliff in January 2008. Over the next four years, the four-county area lost 37,700 jobs, or 9.4 percent of its workforce.

Now, nearly 10 years after falling off that cliff, the area is still mired in economic mediocrity and has yet to regain all the jobs it lost during the recession. In fact, the area is still 15,000 jobs, or nearly 4 percent short of the jobs peak it reached in December 2007.

The breadth of the economic stagnation is apparent in figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Seven of the area’s 10 economic sectors are still – more than nine years later – below their pre-recession jobs levels.

Construction, which has long driven the economy and whose jobs are among the highest paying, remains 10,600 jobs, or 33.5 percent, below its pre-recession peak.

Manufacturing, which is another high-wage sector, is down 8,800 jobs, or 36.7 percent from its peak in 2007.

And the professional and business services sector, which includes engineers, architects and lawyers – more high-paying jobs – is still off by 10,200 jobs, or 15.3 percent.

The leisure and hospitality sector has moved beyond its pre-recession jobs peak, but with an average annual wage of $17,263, it has the lowest paying jobs of any sector.

The BLS figures are not a mirage, or a mistake. In January, the financial web site WalletHub rated 505 large, medium and small sized cities on how they had recovered from the recession. Albuquerque’s rank: 411.

Economic development experts have said that the recession exposed the structural weakness in Albuquerque’s economy: an unhealthy and over reliance on the federal government, a underdeveloped private sector, and an economy that really doesn’t make anything that people in other places want to buy.

As of March, for instance, 22 percent of the area’s 386,700 jobs were in the government sector. And 4 percent of the area’s jobs were in manufacturing, compared to 8.5 percent nationally.

“It’s a systemic problem that has always existed and has only been recently exposed,” said Paul Gessing, executive director of the Rio Grande Foundation, a free market think tank. “There is no doubt that something happened around the time of the economic downturn that changed the way the economy worked, or doesn’t work.”

Other economic experts have argued that Albuquerque doesn’t have an economic development strategy other than hoping and praying that things get better.

Whatever the reason for the failed recovery, it looks like the area won’t recover all the jobs lost during the recession until at 2018 or 2019, according to the most recent economic forecast by the city.

“This puts the Albuquerque recovery over four years behind the national economy in terms of reaching post-recession employment levels,” the forecast said.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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  • Anne
    April 26, 2017, 10:12 am

    Yikes! And we are still stuck without a strategy to get out of our economic stagnation. Where are the business and political leadership voices? It seems like we just run around in circles and wring our hands. In the meantime, AZ, CO, TX and other western states and growing and have a decent economy.

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