By Robert Ruiz, El Paso Metro
The City of El Paso’s Economic Development department’s contract with the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce (GEPCC) for business recruitment efforts has lapsed and it is not clear whether the contract will be renewed. In the meantime, the GEPCC’s recruitment efforts have lagged behind projections and the Caballero administration has yet to mount any kind of industrial recruitment initiative. Joyce Feinberg has been named interim head of the department but no new programs or recruitment strategies have been announced.
A report prepared by the Economic Division of the GEPCC reveals that only twelve companies (12) companies have listed El Paso for possible relocation since January of 2001 and only one (1) since the new administration has taken power. El Paso is on the companies’ short list according to a spokesman for the Chamber. Even if all 12 companies were to select El Paso and relocate to the city, they would represent only 5,238 potential jobs. But, it is estimated that El Paso has lost over 12,500 jobs since Caballero has been in office.
According to the GEPCC report, nine (9) companies currently located in El Paso reported expansions for a total of 1,031 jobs while the city had a gain of seven (7) out of town companies representing 1,438 new jobs. Therefore, there was a gain of 2,469 jobs in 2001. However, the potential increase of 7,076 jobs would make up only 56% of jobs lost during the same period. The net loss of 5,424 jobs is certain to increase as more lay-offs have been announced by Toys-R-Us and Kmart. Added to that are the approximately 711 Casino jobs and 289 ancillary jobs that will be lost as a result of the closing down of the Speaking Rock Casino, the City will suffer the impact of a net loss of approximately 9,164 jobs. The number of job lay-offs and cuts that are not traditionally reported is calculated to add another 20% to 25% to this figure increasing the total to 10,996.
The loss of approximately 11,000 jobs in El Paso means that the unemployment rate will increase to just under 9.5% from an annual rate of 7.9% in 2001. This means that 1 out of every 10 people is unemployed as of January 1st.
The unemployment rate does not begin to present an adequate picture of the human suffering behind the stark figure. The people on the lowest rung of the economic ladder are being hit hardest with an increase in the number of foreclosures, automobile repossessions and increased family anxiety and stress.