As the economy turns around with the COVID-19 pandemic receding and lockdowns and restrictions fading, some states are recovering better than others. Only Arizona, Texas, Utah, and Idaho, some of the reddest states in the country, have all returned to pre-pandemic job levels.
Timothy Jeffries, owner/CEO of ChemResearch Company, the largest metal finishing provider for aerospace and defense in Arizona, who previously served as director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security under Gov. Doug Ducey, told The Arizona Sun Times, “The Arizona economy continues to economically outpace most every state because the American Dream still matters here. Business innovation and prosperity are supported, protected, and celebrated in Arizona — not demonized as is the case of most every blue state. Governor Ducey and the Republican-controlled House and Senate are worthy of high praise for partnering with the business community where appropriate and staying out of the way of business when optimal.”
According to Adam Kamins, director of regional economics at Moody’s Analytics, the recovery is largely due to people wanting to move to those states. “Those four states have experienced persistently strong population growth, which really wasn’t dented by the pandemic,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “More and more people keep coming from expensive coastal cities to places like Dallas and Phoenix, which have a relatively lower cost of living and higher quality of life.”
George Hammond, an economist at the University of Arizona, said the reason Arizona bounced back better than other states was that it didn’t impose lockdowns. “Arizona rapidly returned to its prior peak of employment because compared to the nation we didn’t fall as far,” Hammond said. “One big reason is because the stay-at-home order in Arizona wasn’t very restrictive.”
In May 2021, instead of continuing to accept the extra federal pandemic unemployment compensation like some other states, Gov. Doug Ducey announced that the state would help Arizonans get back to work. He offered assistance as one-time bonuses for those returning to work, child care support, educational opportunities, and rental assistance.
Ducey used federal coronavirus relief money to give pay raises to professions that have had difficulty retaining workers, such as law enforcement and corrections officers. Due to highly publicized violent incidents involving law enforcement around the nation, police officers are deserting the profession in large numbers, not wanting to risk the ramifications of being involved in one, and fewer Americans are choosing to embark on that type of career.
Arizona recovered all of its jobs that were lost, 331,500, plus nearly 5,000 more by November. Job growth has exploded so much that employers cannot find enough workers, Kamins said. The unemployment rate is only 3.2%, under the national average of 3.9%.
Arizona ranked third in small business job growth in December, Paychex found. Only Texas and North Carolina surpassed this level. Wage earning increases in Arizona were also some of the best in the nation, coming in fifth among the states with 4.80% growth.
Phoenix and Tucson have some of the most growth across the nation in high-paying jobs. According to a recent report from real estate software company Stessa, Phoenix and the Valley ranked No. 2 of large metro areas and Tucson was No. 7. The Nashville, Tennessee area was No. 1.
WalletHub ranked two East Valley cities near the top of 182 large cities for the best place to find a job in 2022. Scottsdale ranked No. 8 and Chandler No. 16. Tempe wasn’t far behind at No. 23, and Gilbert at No. 31.
Amazon continues to grow in Arizona, announcing on January 2 an expansion of its Phoenix Tech Hub in Tempe. This month, the company started setting up a new fulfillment facility in Prescott Valley. There are over 32,000 Amazon jobs in the state. Amazon is the state’s third-largest employer after Banner Health and Walmart. Facebook, now known as Meta, started building a data center last August in Mesa.
According to The Arizona Republic, much of the economic growth in Arizona “was centered in the Phoenix area, especially the East Valley.”
Kamins expects a third of the states to return to their pre-pandemic levels of employment by the middle of 2022, with California and states in the Northeast lagging behind.
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