Great Job News — But We’re Still Behind

Congrats to SolAero Technologies, “one of the world’s leading manufacturers of highly efficient, radiation hard solar cells, Coverglass Interconnected Cells … and solar panels for space power applications.” It is “moving manufacturing operations from California to Albuquerque,” and plans to create “100 new high-tech manufacturing jobs.” In the project’s first phase, “SolAero will invest $10 million to overhaul 40,000 feet of their existing Albuquerque facility to create a vertically integrated solar panel manufacturing facility.”

That kind of news is all too rare in the Land of Enchantment, so let’s stop to savor the moment. But let’s keep things in perspective. Nine states have yet to surpass their peak, pre-Great Recession employment levels.* And New Mexico is second only to Wyoming in dismal job-creation performance.

The chart above shows that after Wyoming (down 6.9 percent) and New Mexico (a 4.0 percent drop), the bottom-feeders include Mississippi, Connecticut, Alabama, Maine, West Virginia, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.

Nevada’s experienced a jobs recovery. So have Illinois and Ohio. Arizona’s back in the growth zone. Texas and Oklahoma, like New Mexico, are oil-and-gas states. But they’re on the positive side of the ledger, too. Not so for the Land of Enchantment, which has fewer jobs today than it did in 2008.

SolAero Technologies is to be commended for taking a chance on a state that appears to be wholly committed to making poor public-policy decisions. But we’ll need many more 100-job investments — 192, to be precise — to climb out way back to where we were nine years ago.

* Michigan and Alaska are tough to analyze. Jobs were disappearing in the Wolverine State well before the Great Recession struck. The Last Frontier lost only a small number of jobs in the downturn, then rebounded quickly, but has since fallen beneath its peak, driven by declining petroleum-linked employment.