Tucson economic hangover continues, with reasons for optimism

BY: Gabriela Rico
June 6, 2013

The “hangover” from the Great Recession will likely be felt for another year before Tucson recovers fully, economists say.

The city has recouped only 36.1 percent of the 33,740 jobs lost during the recession, University of Arizona economist George W. Hammond told a packed audience Wednesday during the Eller College midyear forecast at Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa.

“We have some time to go” before job growth is significant, he said.

In 2012, about 5,000 jobs were added in Tucson – a growth rate of about 1.5 percent.

Phoenix and Arizona are recovering a bit faster, but both hit bottom in 2011, Hammond said. Tucson did not hit bottom until last year.

Federal budget cuts will hurt the area because of our dependence on that spending, but Hammond said, “Tucson is headed in the right direction.”

He predicted jobs in the Old Pueblo will grow 1.2 percent in 2013 and 1.9 percent in 2014.

UA economist Marshall J. Vest echoed Hammond’s optimism and said, “We need to stop beating ourselves up” with gloomy outlooks for Tucson.

He challenged the much-cited report from the U.S. Census Bureau that Tucson is the sixth-poorest city in the country.

“That’s not true,” Vest said, noting that the ranking only included metro areas with a population of 500,000 or more residents.

He said the 2011 American Community Survey shows the percentage of the population living in poverty is 20.4 percent in Tucson, ranking the city 105th among micro and metro areas.

Instead of focusing on the negative rankings and data, Vest told the audience to extol the good things happening in the region.

He noted that the Milken Institute’s 2013 technology and science ranking shows Arizona and most Western states rank very well.

The average years of schooling for Tucsonans is 13.82, compared with the national average of 13.68. And more than 90 percent of the workforce in Tucson has at least a high school diploma, Vest said.

“These are assets we should be promoting.”

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at [email protected] or 573-4232.

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