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NM economic forecast: ‘Strong, but still restrained’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research has released its quarterly economic forecast report, predicting “strong, but still restrained” growth over the next few years.

The forecast is mostly unchanged since the last one released in October.

According to an executive summary provided to the Journal, the report forecasts the state will add 11,000 jobs in 2019, 12,000 in 2020, and an average of 10,000 jobs per year through 2024. Personal incomes are predicted to increase by an average of 4.1 percent through 2024, and crude oil output is expected to increase by 50 percent to 365 million barrels over that time period.

BBER Director Jeff Mitchell said those numbers mean New Mexico ranks among the top half of states for growth. For the state to reach even stronger levels of growth, it will have to transform its workforce so that employees are more highly-skilled, said Mitchell.

“We’re not going to reverse that in one year,” he said. “What is restraining us from exceptional growth is exceptional investments.”

The state’s forecasted gains are largely due to the increase in oil production here, particularly with regard to employment and personal income growth, according to Mitchell.

“We’re currently growing at a good clip . . . but we remain far too dependent on too few sectors including oil and gas, both for jobs and state revenue,” he said. “In the long term, that’s not for the best.”

Among the other predictions contained in the report:

—  Employment growth in the mining sector, which includes oil and gas,will slow in 2019 as the industry “settles into longer term trends,” with similar patterns in construction and transportation.

— Professional services are expected to continue steady growth in 2019 and 2020, driven by demand for technical support for large building projects and tech projects in the state’s  metropolitan areas.

— After a few years of flat growth, BBER expects a modest recovery of the health care industry, with about 2,500 new jobs per year.