While the nation’s economy showed some significant signs of life in the first half of 2011, the state’s economy continues to bounce along the bottom. But forecasters at the Economic Club of Phoenix’s Annual Economic Outlook 2011 luncheon on May 5, said they are looking at a comparably stronger finish to the year, with growth continuing at a healthier pace leading up to 2015.
“Arizona job growth is still very weak. For the first quarter, the Arizona economy has added only 4,100 jobs over the first quarter of last year, so growth is well below one half of one percent,” said Lee McPheters, director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at the W. P. Carey School of Business in an interview before the luncheon. “The summer is not usually a strong period for job growth in Arizona, in fact the economy basically goes nearly flat. We are currently forecasting 1 percent job growth, or an increase of about 24,000 new jobs for the year.”
McPheters said that if Arizona has any hope of generating 1 percent job growth, the state and nation’s economies needed to get moving in the second half of the year.
“Current national forecasts are calling for improved job growth this year, but it will also tend to be weighted to the second half,” he said. “So, economy watchers have their fingers crossed that things will improve after summer.”
According McPheters’ forecast, in 2011 the nation will record 650,00 housing starts, an inflation rate of 2.6 percent, 2 million jobs created and GDP growth of 3.1 percent.
Here in Arizona, where the state once led national economic recoveries, it is now relying on growth in other parts of the country to rev up its financial engine.
“Arizona population growth depends as much on events outside Arizona as within the state,” McPheters said. “If Arizona job growth improves (and it has a long way to go), this would act as a ‘draw.’ But people have trouble moving if they cannot sell their house or if they cannot get the price they need. That is why we expect to see more young people move to the state, they will rent instead of buy and are less locked into a particular career path.”
This year, McPheters forecasts that Arizona job growth will only be 1 percent, with personal income rising 4 percent. Meanwhile, single-family home permits are expected to rise by just 10 percent and the population will increase by 1.5 percent. The forecast is only slightly better in 2012, with employment expected to be up 2 percent, a 30 percent increase in single-family home permits and a 1.8 percent rise in the number of people moving into the state.
However, McPheters said, the state’s economy will continue an upward trajectory through 2015, with personal income rising 6.5 percent, the rate of job growth hitting 3.5 percent and a population increase of 2.5 percent. Single-family housing permits are expected to increase by 50 percent in 2013 (reflecting the current stasis in the residential home industry) before leveling off to a 20 percent growth rate in 2015.
In raw numbers, McPheters forecasts that between 2011 and 2015 the state will create 300,00 jobs, issue 112,500 single-family home permits, and see 665,000 new residents.
The state’s ongoing budget crisis has been one of the major factors in Arizona’s slow economic recovery.
“The effect of budget cut backs has been felt sharply by local governments,” McPheters said. “Their employment is down by 5,000 workers and is expected to decline more in the months ahead. Typically, we look to state and local government as a source of stability, not necessarily a growth sector. But current budget problems have changed all that.”
Not too long ago, Arizona enjoyed a substantial budget surplus. So, where did all the money go? Dennis Hoffman, director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute, succinctly illustrated the devastating effect the economic crash had on Arizona residents and, in turn, the state’s revenue.
- The number of millionaires in Arizona dropped from 6,000 in 2006 to about 2,500 in 2009.
- Taxes paid by millionaires dropped from more than $800 million in 2006 to under $300 million in 2009.
- In 2006, the state’s 70,000 tax filers with incomes of $200,000 and above paid half of all taxes or $1.6 billion. In 2009, that same group of taxpayers shrank to under 50,000, paying about $550 million — less than 25 percent of the total taxes paid.
- In addition, the state reduced tax rates by 10 percent after 2006.
When adjusted for inflation, the average amount of income tax collected from an Arizona resident dropped from about $1,650 in 2005 to about $1,050 in 2009. But even as fewer dollars come in, the state’s expenditures have remained relatively constant.
“Right now, the state’s expenditures represent about $425 per $10,000 of personal income in Arizona,” Hoff man said at the luncheon. “However, the state is only collecting about $300 per $10,000 of personal income. Obviously, that’s not sustainable.”
Hoffman did sound one bright note.
“The last couple of months have seen considerably robust retail sales, especially in the area of durable goods,” he said, adding that improved consumer confidence is fueling the recent growth.
That will certainly help the state government as it grapples with its budget crisis, but Hoffman also pointed out that the temporary sales tax increase will expire just as the economy is expanding and putting more pressure on public sector services. He added that state policymakers will face a “balancing act” during much of the next five years — especially in 2014. Part of the solution, Hoffman said, will involve streamlining the state’s expenses and raising taxes.
“Government just simply has to be more efficient in it’s expenditures,” he said. “(And) we have to ask everyone to contribute according to their means.”
To read more, visit knowledge.wpcarey.asu.edu.