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Panel says 170,000 jobs needed in N.M. by 2023

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Council says growth needed to make state more competitive

New Mexico needs to add nearly 170,000 new nonservice-sector jobs by 2023 to become more economically competitive, according to a model created Friday by a fledgling legislative jobs council.

With New Mexico lagging behind neighboring states in recent economic growth indicators, members of the council said the state needs a comprehensive plan for job creation.

“It’s a daunting task, but you need to know the scope of the problem and the scope of the solution,” House Speaker Ken Martinez, D-Grants, said after Friday’s meeting.

Exactly how New Mexico could add nearly 17,000 jobs annually for the next 10 years was not discussed in detail Friday.

The jobs council, which was created during this year’s legislative session and consists of legislators and business and labor leaders, will begin that discussion next month by focusing on different sectors of the state economy and regional needs.

Gov. Susana Martinez and some legislators have touted a massive tax package approved during this year’s session as a job creator – and job saver – for New Mexico.

However, Jim Peach, an economics professor at New Mexico State University, told jobs council members Friday that the state has not recovered from a severe economic downturn. He suggested focusing on the state’s education system and energy industry to boost key economic measures.

“What we’ve done in the past hasn’t really worked,” said Peach.

The economic model created by the jobs council Friday assumes New Mexico’s population will increase by about 10 percent during the next 10 years – to roughly 2.3 million people – and that the state’s unemployment rate will decrease to 4 percent by 2023.

New Mexico’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.8 percent in June, according to figures released Friday by the Department of Workforce Solutions.

The jobs council’s model focuses on “economic-base jobs,” which are defined as jobs that lead to goods or services being exported outside the state. That’s in contrast to service industry jobs, which do not generally spur out-of-state spending.

Mark Lautman, an economic consultant hired to help the jobs council, said economic-base jobs can boost a state or regional economy by creating other jobs.

The jobs council could eventually propose new job-creation initiatives or programs, though Lautman said Friday that it’s unclear whether any initiatives will be ready in time for the 2014 legislative session.

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