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Construction jobs in Arizona continue to boom

Arizona's construction industry continues to add jobs faster than any other industry as builders aim to address a pent-up demand for new houses and commercial space as well as remodeling, the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity reported Thursday.

And that not only means more jobs for carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, and block layers but architects, interior designers, gardening and building supply stores, real estate agents, financial experts, furniture stores and those who make and repair construction equipment.

"Growth within construction is not only positively impacting the construction industry but it is having an impact on multiple industries around the Arizona economy," said Doug Walls, research administrator for the office.

Arizona added 15,100 construction jobs (10.2 percent) over the year (August 2017 to August 2018) and 900 just from July to August. Metro Tucson added 1,200 (7.5 percent) over the year, and metro Phoenix, 13,600 (11.7 percent).

Walls said the 15,100 new jobs not only surpassed other industries in Arizona but represented the strongest growth in construction since 2006.

Unfortunately, rapid homebuilding in the mid-2010s was followed by a deep recession a few years later, in part because too many mortgages were sold and resold within complicated global financial instruments.

Financial services added 5,600 more jobs statewide over the year as more people sought real estate, insurance and mortgage help. Building and garden supply stores added about 1,000.

Arizona municipalities authorized almost 25,500 building permits for single-family and multi-family homes in the first seven months of the year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Walls attributed the residential growth to homeowners feeling more confident about their ability to get and keep jobs.

Arizona's monthly job reports are estimates based on monthly surveys. The state's employment data revised every March to correspond with more accurate federal data that is based on actual hires.

Tucson and Phoenix jobless rates rise

Arizona's unemployment rate remained unchanged from July to August at 4.6 percent. That is higher than the nation's latest rate of 3.9 percent. Pima County's rate rose to 4.8 percent in August from 4.5 percent in July. Maricopa County's also rose from 4.2 percent to 4.5 percent.

Rates can rise when there is an increase in people looking for jobs, whether from moving here or graduating from high school or college.

Overall, the state gained 64,300 non-farm jobs in August, compared to a year earlier. That is much higher than the post-recession (2010 to 2017) average gain of 51,000 jobs in August. For the year, Arizona added 82,800 jobs.

Metro Tucson added 9,500 over the year, for a 2.6 percent gain. That is lower than metro Phoenix (3.6 percent) and Arizona (3 percent) but is better than the national average of 1.7 percent.

Tariff war could hurt mining

Unfortunately, for Southern Arizona, the natural resources and mining industry is not doing well. Employment in metro Pima County remained at about 1,700, unchanged over the year.

There were an estimated 11,900 mining and natural resource jobs in the state in August, 100 less than a year ago.

And the trade war and increasing tariffs imposed by the United States and China on each other's products isn't helping, as China has been the world's largest importer and consumer of base metals, according to Reuters and other financial publications.

Nevertheless, the industry's presence in Southern Arizona helped lure Caterpillar, which announced plans in 2016 to build a surface mining and technology division headquarters near downtown Tucson and add 600 jobs.

That has lured other companies, such as Axiscades, an engineering firm based in India, that announced in August that it would set up a Tucson office and hire more than 300 over the next five years. Caterpillar is a primary customer.

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