So Many Questions

Did you see this editorial in the El Paso Times? It seems that El Paso’s unemployment rate is going down because El Paso’s labor force is shrinking.

The May unemployment rate for El Paso was 5 percent, below the national rate of 5.5 percent but still above the Texas rate of 4.3 percent. While that seems like good news, it is not. El Paso has been reducing its unemployment rate more by shedding workers than creating jobs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in May, El Paso had 342,143 people either working or lacking a job and looking for work. That’s the definition of the labor force used in calculating the unemployment rate.

The size of El Paso’s labor force was down more than 7,000 people from May 2014, a 2.5 percent decline.

So the number of people working or looking for jobs is shrinking, but what about this?

Recent reports from the Census Bureau have shown little population growth over the past two years. The number of students in El Paso County schools is essentially the same as it was in 2010.

So what’s that all about?

If I were someone who cared more than casually, I’d try to parse that data, at least anecdotally if real numbers weren’t available. Who’s leaving? Who’s moving in? Why? How is Fort Bliss affecting population trends? What are the macro-trends driving our demographics?

So many questions, Tom Fullerton. You should be able to get another hundred thousand dollars out of the people who really care about this stuff just for a preliminary study.

Of course, you can always attribute it to jobs. People will live here if you give them enough money. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of high dollar jobs in El Paso. So how do we get them to like to live here?

In Austin in the seventies, Ph.D’s were working the kitchen at Mad Dog and Beans. How do we get a skilled or trainable labor force to live in El Paso if the jobs aren’t here yet?

You can’t ask people why they’re leaving, or why they’ve stayed, because they probably haven’t thought it through yet. They might give rationales instead of their reasons. Like the motivational poster in my sensory deprivation tank says, “If you want to do something you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”

We need more ways and fewer excuses.

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