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Job numbers, home prices continue to rise in metro Tucson

The economies of Arizona and metro Tucson continued to improve in July, with more people finding fulltime jobs, eating out and bidding up home prices, according to the latest employment and real estate reports.

Arizona added an estimated 72,400 jobs (2.7 percent) over the year (July 2017 to July 2018), and the Tucson region added 7,400 (2 percent), the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity reported Thursday.

"That 2.7 percent growth rate is the strongest in over a year," said Doug Walls, research administrator for the office.

The state's unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent in July from 4.7 percent in June, which is higher than the U.S. rate of 3.9 percent. Tucson's rate rose to 4.6 percent in July from 4.4 percent in June.

While Arizona might have a higher jobless rate than the nation, it has been adding jobs faster in most industries, especially construction and manufacturing.

"The growth that we're seeing in Arizona, it's been steady, it's been consistent, it's been well rounded through a number of the different industry sectors as well as a number of the metro areas around the state," Walls said.

"And it's also outpaced that of U.S.'s for over three and a half years."

The state's job numbers, which compare year-over-year number each month, come from two surveys and are subject to revisions every March after they are updated with more accurate federal data.

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Part-timers dwindling

During the peak of the recession in early 2011, almost one in five Arizonans (18.7 percent) worked part time because they couldn't find fulltime jobs. That number of "involuntary part-time employed" dropped to about 9 percent in the first quarter of this year, according to the Office of Economic Opportunity.

Walls said that is likely a major reason why Arizona's labor force – the number of people working or looking for work– grew by almost 59,800 over the year. Job seekers are less discouraged.

Eating out

Arizonans and Americans are feeling confident or hungry enough to eat out more, and that continues to drive large numbers of new hires at restaurants and bars, especially in metro Tucson.

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported Wednesday that nationwide spending at restaurants increased almost 10 percent in July, compared with a year earlier. That even surpassed an 8.7 percent increase in online shopping. Those are estimates.

Restaurants and bars in metro Tucson added more workers over the year than any other employment sector. They grew by 2,900 employees over the year.

That 9.4 percent growth was more than twice that of metro Phoenix, which added 6,500 employees, or 4 percent. Again, those are estimates, subject to revisions.

In contrast, employment at grocery stores remained flat in metro Tucson and fell by 900 in metro Phoenix.

Higher home prices, slower sales

Home prices in metro Tucson reached a median of $215,000 in July, according to the Tucson Association of Realtors. That is an increase from June but decrease from May, when the median was $216,500 — the highest in at least 11 years.

But amidst signs that home sales are slowing nationally, the number of home sales in metro Tucson fell 14 percent from June to July to 1,367, though they were 6 percent over July 2017. New listings also fell about 5.5 percent from June to 1,784 in July. But then, heat and rain didn't help.

The National Association of Realtors reported in July that sales of existing homes in the U.S. declined in June for the third straight month, particularly in the South and West and primarily because of a shortage of available homes.

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Tucson's good, bad and ugly

These are the sectors that added the most jobs over the year in metro Tucson and the number of employees they had in July, according to state estimates.

  • Restaurants and bars: 2,900; 33,600
  • Health care: 1,200; 49,900
  • Construction, 1,100; 17,100
  • Aerospace products and parts manufacturing: 800; 13,100
  • Transportation, warehousing and utilities, 700; 11,600

And these sectors were stable, barely grew or shrank over the year:

  • Retail: 300; 42,000
  • Financial activities: 300; 17,900
  • Accommodations (i.e. hotels): 100; 7,600
  • Government (all levels, including public schools): -200, 68,400
  • Natural resources and mining: no change; 1,700
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