Big spike in job numbers nationwide means rest of country catching up to Arizona

Arizona’s unemployment rate has ticked up to 4%, one of the highest in the nation right now.
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 6:40 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - As many in Washington celebrate the new jobs numbers, 517,000 new jobs in January, it’s a pretty sure bet not many were in Arizona.

It seems the rest of the nation is just now catching up to Phoenix, Tucson, and the state as a whole.

“The U.S. is really now kind of accelerating out of the pandemic, so national growth looks a little bit faster as a result, whereas Arizona growth is now coming back to normal,” says George Hammond, a leading economist in the state and the director of the Economic and Business Research Center at the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona.

Arizona’s unemployment rate has ticked up to 4%, one of the highest in the nation right now, while the national unemployment rate has dropped to 3.4%, the lowest since 1969.

With a tight labor market, workers can drive wages upwards significantly.

“The last couple of quarters, we have seen some of the fastest wage growth that we’ve seen on record,” Hammond said.

Even that has begun to moderate at the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to slow down hiring and wage growth to ease inflation.

“Overall inflation is moderating but we still have a long ways to go to get inflation back to the 2% goal that the Federal Reserve is targeting,” he said.

With the job numbers shooting up as it did in January, it likely means interest rates will continue to rise a while longer a may stay there for a while.

“We’re starting to see the inflation numbers come down a bit, not as much as we’d like to see,” said Marty Walsh, the US Labor Secretary. “We’re seeing wage growth continue to stay steady at 4.4% and what we want to do is close that gap eventually.”

It’s that word “eventually” that’s cause for the unknown. Even Wall Street, which dropped on the jobs numbers because it means higher rates for a longer time, is unsettled by the news.

As the interest rates continue to hover well above the 2% target, it means the economy could eventually end up in a recession.

But Hammond, who believes that’s likely to be the case, doesn’t believe it will be serious in Arizona.

It’s hovering back to normal.

“Tucson is recovering,” he said. “It has almost recovered all of the jobs we lost during the early months of the pandemic.”

Tucson and Arizona are just waiting for the rest of the nation to catch up.