by J.M. Sylvan
American Reporter Correspondent
March 2, 2009
SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL
ANGEL FIRE, N.M., Feb. 22, 2009 -- What if you woke up and found out the "recession" means that the number of your unemployed friends and neighbors in your home state, New Mexico, rocketed up an astounding 6.3% in one single, solitary, sad and sorry day?
You won't hear any tv or radio reports or read any news articles framing the crisis in these terms, but I actually went to the raw numbers, and with a tiny bit of poetic license - which comes from actually having owned and managed businesses - I am fairly certain my numbers are solid.
In one 24-hour period, New Mexico - whose officials cautiously bragged that its former 3.9 - 4.9 percent unemployment rate was among the 10-lowest the country - got rocked and socked with bad news.
1. With a huge ad budget, vast inventory and active service department, Zangara Dodge, based in Albuquerque and the state's largest Dodge dealer, closed its doors and fired 150 people.
A skeleton crew returned to work Thursday, some perhaps without pay, to maintain the dignity of the brand and make sure that folks with cars in the service bays would have their work completed.
The owner of the 18-year-old dealership said he is working on a tentative sale of the franchise.
Reality check: there are probably another few hundred runners, detail people, part-timers, couriers and local parts suppliers who are finished, not to mention transporters and title people whose jobs were dependent on the dealership, so the real impact might be double or triple this number. And what about the newspapers and tv and radio stations that depended on their ads?
2. Eclipse Aviation, at one time one of the state's largest employers, "furloughed" its remaining 800 workers. The builder of compact commuter jets has already received more than $25 million in tax breaks from the City of Albuquerque plus other state incentives. It carried $1 billion or more into bankruptcy last year, and still has an on-again, off-again takeover deal pending with the Dutch firm ETIRC Aviation.
Eclipse chief Mike McConnell issued a statement that the "global financial crisis" has delayed the final court-approved deal out of Chapter 11.
Reality Check: Thirty planes are still on the assembly line. Lawsuits for non-delivery and various alleged contractual violations are pending, and once again 800 is the tip of the iceberg. The domino effect probably leaves leaves 1,400 to 1,500 jobs gone.
3. Chevron Mining (previously Molycorp) of Questa, near the state's northern border with Colorado, laid off 230 workers after earlier letting 85 others go. The mine is a major northern New Mexico employer and a key element of economic stability from Taos to the entire "Enchanted Circle" area that spreads into southern Colorado.
Retailers, schools, churches, taverns, resorts in a sparsely populated area of the state will instantly feel the pain.
The mineral molybdenum is used to harden steel in fabrication, and Chevron said the recession has cut sales and manufacturing of its clients and forces the local cutback.
Reality Check: Since Questa is a 35-minute drive from where I live and I know it well, I'd place the real number of jobs impacted at two or three times that number - easily 600 people out of work.
So, the official news media tally was that about 1,200 jobs were lost in three separate announcements over one 24-hour period on Feb. 19, an otherwise ordinary Thursday. But my "real world" number adds up to about 3,000 people either fired, laid off with little chance of recall, or losing jobs at dozens of related businesses.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that at the start of the year New Mexico theoretically had an eligible workforce of 966,000 people and actually had 918,000 employed.
Keep in mind that New Mexico's population is estimated at around 2.5 million, or less than metropolitan Cleveland, Ohio. In poverty, social services, educational achievement, etc., New Mexico is in dismal shape, usually ranking 45th to 49th in such measures among the 50 U.S. states.
Federal statistics showed the year starting with unemployment at between 3.9 and 4.3 percent, with some calculations that include agricultural and other seasonal workers computed up to a total of 4.9 percent total unemployment before last week. Remember, this does not include the "hard core unemployed," who have exhausted or did not qualify for unemployment insurance and are still out of work.
My research showed about 47,800 unemployed at the start of the year, or by the government's own statistics, 5.25 percent of the employable work force out of a job.
If anything, I think my estimate of a 3,000 one-day job loss pop is conservative. The estimate of at least 50,800 people now unemployed creates a 6.3% increase in the number of people added to that jobless roster in one day (3,000 is 6.3% of the 47,800 previous total). he bew total would be the chilling reality: 11.55 percent of New Mexico's citizens want work, had work, but now are walking the streets when they're not haunting the unemployment lines.
In a telling assessment of the week from his perspective, Mike McConnell, the Eclipse Aviation chief, told reporters in a conference call: "The worldwide financial turmoil is affecting the completion of the sale of Eclipse assets. It's taking longer than anyone thought it would."
Long enough for pigs to fly, I would say.