The overall American economy has grown over the past two years to the point that unemployment is the lowest it’s been in decades in many cities and states, and Hispanic unemployment nationally is at record lows.
Here in Tucson we finally have as many people working as we did in early 2008, before the Great Recession hit. Plus we now have more people working in the Professional and Business Services than ever before. Good news for sure. But how is Tucson doing employment-wise relative to similarly-situated cities in the West and Southwest such as Tulsa, Albuquerque, and Colorado Springs – medium-size cities that aren’t the state capital but which have a significant number of institutions of higher education?
The answer is not good. Let’s look at Professional and Business Services (P&BS) first. This sector is the most prized by cities for employment as this sector contains the best-paying upper middle-income and higher income jobs. According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, 560,000 new P&BS jobs have been added nationally in 2018. I did some basic arithmetic to determine how many of those jobs should’ve been added in the Tucson metro area and our competitor cities of Tulsa, Albuquerque, and Colorado Springs. Here’s what I found:
|Expected P&BS Job Growth||Actual|
While an increase of 1400 P&BS jobs here is obviously welcome, sadly it pales in comparison with Tulsa, Albuquerque, and Colorado Springs. These cities are wildly outperforming Tucson in this key area of job growth.
And Tucson is not being left behind just in P&BS job growth. I ran the numbers for Tucson and its competitor cities using Bureau of Labor Statistics data for the Education and Health Care; Construction; Manufacturing; and Trade/Transportation/Utilities job categories as well, which covers the bulk of all employment, and added the P&BS data above to determine if these cities had greater than expected job growth using the same arithmetic formula. They all did. However, Tucson badly lagged its competitors again:
|Jobs added in excess of arithmetic expectations|
And, Albuquerque, like Tucson, was hit really hard by the Great Recession, with overall employment and P&BS employment not reaching pre-Great Recession levels till 2017 or 2018. Yet it’s now an economic tiger compared to Tucson.
So I ask the question of Sun Corridor, Inc. and the elected officials of Tucson and Pima County? Why is Tucson lagging these competitor cities in job growth? And what are you doing to catch up?