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Tucson's 2017 job growth thousands more than previously reported

Metro Tucson has gained thousands more non-farm jobs over the past few years than previously reported, according to the latest federal revision of employment data.

The Arizona Office of Employment Opportunity said Thursday that the Tucson region ended 2017 with 377,200 people employed in non-farm jobs – an increase of 3,600 workers. The office previously estimated Tucson’s 2017 growth at about 1,900 jobs.

That included 2,500 more positions in professional and business services; 1,600 more jobs in trade, transportation and utilities, and 1,000 more in construction than previously reported.

Other sectors came out worse, including “other services,” which ended up with 2,300 fewer jobs, and leisure and hospitality, with 900 fewer.

Doug Walls, a state research administrator, made a special point during a news conference of focusing on the Tucson numbers because monthly surveys last year showed that Tucson was losing or barely gaining jobs through much of 2017.

The annual revision, known as benchmarking, relies on more accurate federal data than is gathered monthly by the state— mainly quarterly censuses of how many people were actually working through September.

The revision gave Tucson a 1 percent job growth measurement for 2017, slightly better than the state’s .8 percent growth for the year. Tucson’s job 2017 job growth was previously estimated at .5 percent, and Arizona’s as 1.5 percent.

But even after the revisions, in January 2018, Tucson still ranked third from the bottom among Arizona’s major metro areas for its over-the-year job growth of  1.1 percent. The Phoenix metro registered a 2.7 percent growth and the state 2.2 percent. Yuma and the Sierra Vista-Douglas region came in worse than Tucson.

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Statewide, the 2017 revisions added 21,600 jobs last year, boosting Arizona’s total to 2.8 million jobs, a .8 percent gain over 2016.

But Arizona’s unemployment rate was revised up from 4.5 percent at the end of 2017 to 4.7 percent.  The jobless rate rose again in January 2018 to 4.8 percent, higher than the U.S. rate of 4.1 percent.  Tucson’s rate in January was also 4.7 percent.

The fact that both the numbers of jobs and the unemployment rate grew indicates that the number of people looking for jobs is growing faster than the number of jobs. 

Stronger and weaker sectors

The revisions showed that some sectors, especially construction, and trade, have been stronger than previously reported at the state level. But leisure and hospitality ended up weaker.


The construction sector underwent the largest revision at the state level, with an addition of 6,800 jobs in 2017, bringing the total to 145,400. Tucson jobs grew 1,000 to 15,900.

Construction positions have been steadily growing over the past decade, Walls said. They include specialty jobs like electricians and plumbers, building construction and heavy projects like roadwork. The Phoenix area has the South Mountain Freeway under construction, and the Tucson area has major freeway work at Ina and Ajo roads.

The Tucson area had 243 housing permits -- mostly for single-family homes -- issued in January, a 45.5 percent increase from a year earlier, according to the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona. 

Trade, transportation and utilities

This sector was revised upwards by 5,000 workers to end up 524,200 statewide. At least half the employees in this sector work in retail trade.

Financial activities

The third largest revision went to financial activities, which includes real estate, rental and leasing, insurance and financial investments.  Changes gave it 4,500 more workers statewide, for a total of 213,900 at the end of the year.

Education and health services

This sector includes hospitals, nursing homes and non-public schools and private educational companies, in the fourth largest revision. It added 4,100 positions, to end at 426,600.

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Manufacturing tied with financial activities, with the addition of 700 more positions in 2017. Arizona continues to outpace the country in the growth of manufacturing jobs, Walls said. Its 2017 growth was 4.9 percent, compared with 1.5 percent for the U.S.

The manufacture of computers and electronics parts in Arizona had its largest gain in 18 years, Walls said.  The increase of 2,200 jobs in 2017 increased the total to 33,100, according to January numbers.

Leisure and hospitality

For many months last year, it appeared that the hottest place to land a job was at restaurants, bars and hotels. But the revisions gave the leisure and hospitality sector 4,500 fewer jobs than previously estimated. It ended the year with 319,200 in that sector.

Tucson’s professionals

The one sector that had the largest revision in Tucson was professional and business services, which added 2,500 jobs. That includes scientific and technical services, employment services, real estate and other business support.

Tucson Association of Realtors just reported that the Tucson area had the highest total sales volume in the past ten years or almost $3.8 billion.  The average sales price reached $236,838., the highest since $242,066 in 2008.

 “All of these factors are indicative of the high demand and low inventory, and point to an economic recovery in Tucson,” said Judith Grammond, TAR president.

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1 comment on this story

Mar 10, 2018, 5:02 pm
-0 +1

This article, headlined, “Tucson’s 2017 job growth thousands more than previously reported,” requires clarification (which I can’t provide).

According to the revised State report cited in the article—unless I’m reading this wrongly, which is possible—the State now reports our city’s increase in non-farm jobs at 3,600 rather than 1,700 as earlier reported.

That’s not “thousands more than previously reported,” but 1.7 thousand more.  The thousands more so far as I can tell are cumulative numbers already calculated by the State ... or are they?

The article goes on to cite sectors in which gains occurred and those incurring losses. When I tote them up, I arrive back at the 1,900 number.  It’s all a little confusing.

(Simultaneously with publication of this article, Rockwell Collins announced that it was closing down its Tucson operation,
reducing our net gain—whatever it is—by 300-400 jobs this year.)

We in Metro Tucson and Baja Arizona need a clear understanding of our current situation in order to plan our future. Strong, creative action is needed to get us out of an enduring economic rut.  Mayor Rothschild’s State of the City address, also published in this issue of The Sentinel, is objective and innovative as a policy document. But its successful implementation will require public support, involvement, and resources.

What’s really holding us back? And what will it take to move forward?  These are more important right now than sheer statistics.

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