2006-2013: Government jobs up, then down

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By Harold Morgan

Scads of state economic numbers new to me crawled from the darkness a few days ago.
The numbers omitted government, so first, using other numbers, we will consider the performance of our leaders in weaning the state from the dark dependence on government jobs.
The Department of Workforce Solutions is the source of the government figures. An entirely arbitrary choice, Octobers from 2006, 2011 and 2013, provide the comparison. The numbers, for wage jobs, are revised and seasonally unadjusted.
Overall government employment declined during the period. The total, 197,400 in 2006, grew 1,700, or 0.86 percent, by 2011 and declined 4,000, or two percent, to 195,100 two years later.
The federal sector, by far the smallest of the government employers, more than explains the changes. Federal employers hired a net of 2,300 people, a 7.6 percent increase, between October 2006 and 2011. Federal employment dropped 9.2 percent to 29,700 between from October 2011 to 2013.
Federal employment runs about half of the state government total and less than a third of local government. All governments do different things. Geography bounds the activity.
For the federal government, the world is the boundary. Functions cover national defense, “big” science, humanitarian, environmental and tribal relationships. Policy imperatives turn into money and jobs in quite different and complex ways. The policy considerations underlying a military base or a national laboratory are far from those behind a national monument. To treat a government sector as just one monolithic thing, as does our public dialogue, is to mislead, just as it is to treat the private sector as one thing. All that said, the idea of smaller government drives my perspective, things not even quite equal.
In October 2013, state government employment was 60,600, the same as seven years earlier. This figure refers to the job sector, not people getting wages from the state. Local government employed 104,800 in October 2013, well above the combined federal / state total. Local government jobs fell a bit during the period, about 1.5 percent.
A flashlight illumination, a passing mention in a footnote, led to digging the new numbers from the black hole that is our electronic census. The mention, by Nobel Prize winner Edmund Phelps, came in “Mass Flourishing,” his book about how “grassroots innovation created jobs, challenge and change.”
The census product is “Business Dynamics Statistics.” The Dynamics Statistics cover most of the private sector, minus railroad employees for some reason, and the self-employed who are important in New Mexico. The 2013 employment total is 601,184, not far from the October 2013 private sector wage job total of 619,100 reported by Workforce Solutions. The figure seems close enough to be useful. For those of us into such things, cool stuff abounds from some spreadsheet slogging. From 1977 to 2011, we get details about firms and establishments, by size, the comings and goings, births and deaths, that is, of firms and establishments, of how many employees they have and of jobs created and destroyed.
I’ll provide details next week. Today’s highlights begin with a definition. An establishment is an individual business location. A firm is a business, an enterprise that may operate more than one establishment. Retailers and restaurants are often multi-establishment firms.
In 2007, the New Mexico economy peaked. That year the state had 33,722 firms that, together, operated 8,323 additional locations for a total of 42,045 establishments. There were 645,262 employees in 2007, about 44,000 less than in October 2013. Just over 118,000 jobs were created during the year, 50,000 by new establishments, the rest by firms continuing in business. The year saw 99,000 jobs destroyed, 30,000 by defunct operations and 60,000 by those still around.
More about these changes next week.