Jobs, home prices and population growth are all slowly rebounding in Arizona. However, experts from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University say we still have a long way to go, and the automatic federal budget cuts known as the sequester aren’t helping our momentum. The experts delivered their forecasts today at the annual Economic Outlook Luncheon sponsored by the Economic Club of Phoenix.
Research Professor Lee McPheters, director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at the W. P. Carey School, confirmed Arizona is once again a Top 15 growth state for both employment and population, but we’re not back to normal levels. From 1960 to 2007, we routinely ranked among the Top 5 states for both employment and population growth. In the rough years from 2008 to 2011, we dropped down to No. 48 and No. 14 in those areas.
“Last year, we finally bounced back to No. 8 for employment growth and No. 7 for population growth,” said McPheters. “However, the sequester and other factors have been clouding the economy here in recent months, and the year-over-year job-growth ranking issued this March dropped Arizona down to No. 13. The state will have to wait a couple more years for full recovery.”
Arizona added 48,900 jobs in 2012. The state is projected to add 61,000 jobs this year. The fastest-growing industries are construction, wholesale trade, information, state government and leisure/hospitality.
“Arizona has gained back 39 percent of the 314,000 jobs we lost in the recession,” explained McPheters. “However, that’s a pace well behind the nation as a whole, which has regained 67 percent of its 8.8 million lost jobs.”
In recent years, population growth in Arizona had dropped from the state’s typical 2- to 3-percent range to less than 1 percent. Finally last year we popped back up to 1.3 percent.
Personal income may also be coming back. The consensus of Arizona Blue Chip economists shows growth in this area of 3.7 percent in 2012, 5.1 percent expected in 2013, and 6 percent expected in 2014.
“The bottom line is that Arizona is doing better than most states, but this will still be the seventh year in a row of lean, subpar growth for us,” said McPheters.
Dennis Hoffman, economics professor and director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute at the W. P. Carey School of Business, reiterated that Arizona is recovering more slowly from this recession than from others in the past. However, we are coming back stronger than the nation as a whole in most areas of the economy. Hoffman expects the United States to see 2- to 3-percent gross-domestic-product (GDP) growth this year. That will likely include more moderate job growth and low inflation.
“The economy is plodding along, assisted by the real-estate and stock-market recoveries, low fuel prices and innovation in the business world,” said Hoffman. “Still, we face a lot of uncertainty from our national-debt crisis, political squabbling in Washington, economic difficulties in Europe and China, and changing demographics. One huge issue remains the problem of future funding for Social Security and Medicare.”
At the state level, Hoffman says we’re going to be strongly affected by the decisions still to be made this year on possible Medicaid expansion, the loss of the temporary sales tax, the potential taxing of online sales, and other big issues. For now, state revenue has been coming back with the rebounding economy.
When it comes to the housing market, Mike Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business, delivered good news about the recovery. Specifically, the median Phoenix-area home price was up a whopping 58 percent from a low of $111,000 in May 2011 to $175,000 this March. Foreclosures were down 60 percent just over the last year from March 2012 to March 2013, and Orr expects foreclosure rates to dip below long-term averages by the end of next year. Also, less than 5 percent of Arizona home loans (not already in foreclosure) are delinquent now.
However, we do face some problems in the housing market. For one thing, there’s a chronic shortage of homes for sale. Now that there’s no flood of cheap foreclosures and short sales coming onto the market, buyers are dependent mostly on normal resales and new-home sales.
“Higher prices would normally bring more ordinary home sellers into the market, but many are either locked into their homes because of negative equity, or they’re simply waiting for prices to go up more,” explained Orr. “As a result, some buyers are turning to new-home sales, but developers are reluctant to overbuild as much as they did at the market peak. Therefore, we may see about 50,000 to 60,000 new people being added to our local population this year, but only around 12,000 new single-family homes being built.”
Today’s Economic Outlook Luncheon was held at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix. The Economic Club of Phoenix hosts this event every spring, as one of its opportunities for Valley business leaders and others to network and engage. The club was founded by a group of prominent business executives called the Dean’s Council of 100, in conjunction with the W. P. Carey School of Business. More information about the club can be found at www.wpcarey.asu.edu/ecp.
Today’s presentations will be posted at knowWPCarey, the business school’s online resource, at http://knowwpcarey.com.