A Sign That Arizona’s Economy is Improving

Arizona gained construction jobs last month

Phoenix Business Journal by Kristena Hansen, Reporter

Date: Tuesday, November 20, 2012, 1:07pm MST

After weathering another seasonal summer slowdown of construction work, last month’s employment figures in Arizona indicate the local industry is now getting back on track.

The latest report released Tuesday by the Associated General Contractors of America show Arizona’s construction workforce grew by more than 3 percent year-over-year, or 3,500 new jobs, in October, posting a total workforce of 117,700 for the month.

That’s the 13th highest percentage gain in the nation, according to the report, which is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s also slightly better than September when the association previously reported that Arizona’s construction employment was up by 3,300 jobs, or 3 percent, year-over-year.

Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, said in an email that despite the improvements, Arizona’s construction employment last month was still no higher than in 1994 and a whopping 52 percent below the peak more than six years ago.

“Construction employment in Arizona bottomed out in September 2010 at 109,500, seasonally adjusted, a drop of 134,800 (55 percent) from the peak of 244,300 set in June 2006,” Simonson said in the email. “Since then, employment has edged up on a year-over-year basis but has been erratic month-to-month.”

For example, the statewide workforce in October was up by 600 jobs, or a one-half percentage gain, from the previous month. That modest gain, however, followed month-over-month losses in construction jobs in August and, especially, September.

For example, I previously reported that Arizona lost 2,000 jobs, or a decline of 1.7 percent, in September from the previous month.

But because the BLS typically modifies previous months’ data in each new report, Tuesday’s data-set showed Arizona’s September figure was actually a month-over-month job loss of 2,500.

Arizona was among 31 states that posted construction-job gains in October and the association largely attributed the improvements to the recent upswing in demand for new home construction.

However, the association also noted that the looming so-called fiscal cliff has fostered uncertainty across all business sectors and thus undermined gains in residential construction.

“The industry remains stuck in neutral, with close balance each month between the number of states that add or lose construction jobs,” Simonson said in Tuesday’s report. “Despite a strong pickup in homebuilding and multifamily construction, uncertainty about the fiscal cliff appears to be holding back private investment, while public agencies keep trimming construction budgets.”

Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s CEO, said in the report many firms nationwide will likely be forced to downsize if there’s no resolution — a devastating blow to a nation that has only just begun emerging from its economic rut.

“If Washington officials can’t find a solution to the fiscal cliff, we run the risk of putting the economy into another downward spiral,” Sandherr said.




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