Experts Discuss the State of El Paso's Economy at UTEP

March 10, 2009

David Burge / El Paso Times

Dr. Tim Roth UTEP Professor of Economics Dr. Tim Roth comments on the state of the economy Tuesday at UTEP. (Mark Lambie / El Paso Times).

EL PASO -- The El Paso economy is doing better than much of the rest of the country, but the global recession will produce some challenges in 2009, according to a panel of industry experts and economists that spoke Tuesday at UTEP.

"We've been doing better than the rest of the country," said Bill Gilmer, senior economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and officer in charge of the bank's El Paso branch. "But in the last year, we've seen our job growth slow. From January to January, it's been essentially zero (job growth).

"Our unemployment rate is rising and rising as fast as the rest of the nation," Gilmer said.

Past economic performance is like "looking at a pretty girl in the rearview mirror," Gilmer said. If you focus on the past too long, "Pretty soon, you're going to have an accident."

The key is future performance, he added.

Gilmer served on a panel of University of Texas at El Paso business professors and economists and local business leaders who spoke during a State of El Paso Economy event organized by the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce and UTEP. About 200 people attended the event.

Expansion at Fort Bliss has provided an "underpinning" to spur the construction industry and the local economy, Gilmer said.

But Mexico and the maquila industry, which is tied to the U.S. industrial sector, have been unable to avoid the recession, which could provide a test for El Paso, Gilmer said.

During the fourth quarter of 2008, the Mexican economy declined at about a 10 percent annual rate, Gilmer added.

Richard Dayoub, president of the Greater Chamber, said similar events to keep the business community and public updated on the economy will be planned throughout the year.

David Burge may be reached at dburge@elpasotimes.com; 546-6126.

 
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