Recent economic data indicates that job creation and wages are continuing their upward climb across all demographics and income levels nationally.
This trend holds true in New Mexico, as well.
According to the most recent U.S. Department of Labor statistics, national unemployment rates are now at 3.5 percent, down from 4.7 percent in December 2016, and reflect their lowest levels since 1969.
Increased hiring and small-business growth have contributed to tremendous job creation over the past year as well, with an average of 165,000 jobs being added monthly.
Although New Mexico’s unemployment rate remains higher than the national average at 4.8 percent, it is less than in any year from 2010-17, and far below its high of 8.3 percent in mid-2010. Total nonagricultural payroll employment in New Mexico grew by 16,200 jobs (1.9 percent) over the last year, even surpassing the 1.5 percent growth nationally.
It seems the longest hiring expansion in 80 years is also helping to improve the lives of lower-income workers in particular, and rising wages have helped to lift a tremendous number of Americans out of poverty, including many minorities. In fact, the poverty rates for African-Americans (20.8 percent) and Hispanics (17.6 percent) are the lowest on record.
Last year, 40 million fewer people lived in households receiving government assistance than in 2016, and the number receiving food stamps has shrunk by 9.5 million in the last three years.
Recent data also reflects that the overall median weekly earnings in current dollars for African-Americans and Hispanics were up 9.4 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively, in the past year, with median weekly earnings for all Americans up 9.7 percent over that time.
Is it true that some Americans — and New Mexicans — have fallen behind over the last three years? Of course.
Think about the mining and manufacturing sectors. Mining employment declined by about 24,000 jobs nationally last year, after rising by 63,000 in 2018.
This has not necessarily been the case in New Mexico, as mining jobs in the state were up 4.4 percent, adding 1,100 jobs last year.
Will those numbers be sustainable into the future? Probably not.
Manufacturing job growth also slowed in 2019, and there are still long-term concerns that those numbers will never be what they once were, primarily because of advancements in robotics and other automation technologies. Despite that, the data shows that more American companies have been increasing domestic investment in property, plant and equipment over the last three years as the overall business outlook strengthens and companies move operations back from overseas.
That said, are most Americans faring better over the past three years?
Based on the data, they clearly are.
Unemployment is down; wages are up; gross domestic product is at sustainable, healthy levels; and inflation remains below the Fed’s target.
To claim the U.S. is lagging behind in economic growth and prosperity is simply disingenuous, but as has often been said, “Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.”
(Brad Crowson is the regional manager for WESST, a nonprofit small-business development and training organization dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs in Rio Rancho and throughout New Mexico. For more information, visit wesst.org or call 892-1238.)