Arizona can expect to outpace the nation’s job growth for at least the next eight years with the addition of at least 500,000 jobs, according to the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity.
Healthcare jobs, which mostly offer above-average wages, are expected to continue to be the fastest growing throughout most of the state.
It also appears that jobs in bars and restaurants will continue to do well and that Arizona’s rapidly rising minimum wage is not hurting them.
The state office issued a long-term forecast for the 2016-26 decade and projects that Arizona has added or will add 542,795 jobs over that time, an almost 19 percent increase.
Its population increase is a major factor. Arizona’s population growth has surpassed the national growth for seven years and the state is now ranked sixth for population growth, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The annualized average of projected Arizona jobs (2016-26) is 1.7 percent, which is higher than the U.S. average of 0.7 percent. And it is also far better than Arizona’s 0.2 percent average growth from 2006 to 2016.
Pima County is expected to add 65,509 positions, or almost 17 percent, from 2016 to 2026. And that could be conservative because the state office estimated two weeks ago that Pima County added 7,700 jobs from June 2017 to June 2018.
The number of Arizonans 65 and older is expected to peak in about 2027. And that’s a main reason healthcare and social assistance positions are expected to account for almost a third of all the new jobs.
That includes everything from doctors and nurses to home health aides, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, genetic counselors and physical therapist aides.
“Fifty-six of the 71 healthcare occupations have a higher median wage than the state median of $17.45 (an hour),” said Doug Walls, research administrator for the Office of Economic Opportunity.
Food preparation jobs are projected to grow by 67,231 jobs, or 2.4 percent, and Walls said the rising minimum wage doesn’t seem to be slowing down that hiring.
Because of a proposition voters approved in 2016, Arizona’s minimum wage jumped from $8.05 an hour to $10 in 2017, and then to $10.50 iin 2018. It hit $11 an hour on Jan. 1, and will rise to $12 an hour on Jan. 1, 2020; it then will rise according to inflation.
“We didn’t see employment declines within food services or drinking places or really any indication that the minimum wage had an impact on that industry,” Walls said.
He said that is likely due to a nationwide trend since early 2015 of people eating out more and preparing food at home less. Money spent on food consumed outside the home is now about $60.6 billion, compared to $55 billion spent at grocery stores, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The gap has been widening the past three years.
“So there are a lot of different trends that would impact food and drinking places, minimum wage being one,” Walls said.
Maricopa County is expected to account for 75 percent of Arizona’s total employment growth from 2016 to 2026. The largest single chunk, almost half the jobs, will be in Phoenix suburbs and not the city itself.
Pima County can expect to gain about 12 percent of Arizona’s jobs.
One thing that drives jobs is population growth, and Tucson’s has been low.
From 2010 to 2017, 94 percent of the state’s population growth occurred in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal Counties.
Maricopa County’s population grew by 489,672; Pinal County’s, by 54,469 and Pima County’s, 42,509.
Construction jobs are expected to grow by the largest percentage, 3 percent, and to add 47,838 jobs from 2016 to 2026.
That industry employs about 159,700 Arizonans now, well below the 244,000 pre-recession peak in 2016. But Walls and other experts contend that Arizona construction reached unsustainable levels in 2004 to 2006 due to easy money. They say a better number to aim for is 175,300 construction jobs, the highest point before that unrealistic peak.
And by that measure, Arizona should soon be about where it was in 2003.