As Arizona recovers from the pandemic, thousands of employers are ramping up hiring across the state and job growth is projected to remain steady for years to come. A new report projects more than a half million new jobs by 2029.
Some sectors, however, are finding it challenging to fill jobs right now. As of March, there were 160,000 to 180,000 jobs open across the state, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But unemployment is 6.7 percent, above the national average of 6.2 percent.
To address the dilemma, Ducey announced he is ending the use of federal relief money for extra unemployment payments on July 10. Instead, the money will be used for the new incentives.
“In Arizona, we’re going to use federal money to encourage people to work instead of paying people not to work,” Ducey said last week.
Federal relief dollars will be used for the new “Arizona Back to Work” program that will offer incentives to get workers back on the job and grants to help childcare providers retain employees.
Here are the new “Back-to-Work” incentives
Under the program, Arizona will offer one-time bonuses to returning workers, along with child care support, educational scholarships and rental assistance.
Here’s a breakdown of the incentives:
Arizona will set aside $300 million of federal resources to offer a one-time bonus of $2,000 to eligible individuals who return to the workforce and get a full-time job. Those who return part-time will receive $1,000. The bonus will be awarded when the individual has left the unemployment insurance program and completed at least 10 weeks of work with an employer.
The program will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. In order to qualify for the bonus, an individual must have already filed for unemployment benefits. Arizonans filing for new unemployment benefits moving forward will not be eligible for return-to-work bonuses.
Arizona will provide $7.5 million for community college scholarships for currently unemployed workers who are eligible for the return-to-work bonuses, as well as $6 million for GED test preparation and exam fees for eligible workers without a high school diploma.
Child care for returning workers
The state will provide three months of child care assistance for individuals with children who return to work after collecting unemployment benefits. To be eligible, an individual must have already filed for unemployment benefits and earn $25 per hour, equivalent to a yearly salary of $52,000, or less at their new job.
The Governor on May 5 announced significant new federal investment of $508.4 million aimed at addressing housing instability in Arizona. The funds will assist renters, support homeowners experiencing financial hardship, and provide critical services to Arizonans experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
Funding assistance to recruit and retain child care employees
Additionally, Gov. Ducey and DES last week announced an additional $9 million in aid for childcare providers across the state. With this funding, Arizona will have allocated a total of $88 million in Child Care and Development Fund relief funding for the child care network, providers and families since the beginning of the pandemic, as appropriated through the 2020 CARES Act.
The grant program provides immediate support to child care providers in hiring qualified staff and retaining existing staff. This grant program will help all regulated child care providers with recruitment and retention costs to support the child care workforce in Arizona.
Child care centers and group homes must use grant funds for salaries and benefits for employees, and bonus incentives for hiring and retention.
Arizona projected to add more than half million jobs by 2029
Jobs are projected to continue to grow at a steady rate through 2029, according to a new report out of the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), a division of the Arizona Commerce Authority responsible for economic forecasting.
According to the OEO report, Arizona will add nearly 550,000 jobs from 2019 to 2029 for an annualized job growth rate of 1.6 percent, four times the U.S. growth rate.
Fastest growth projected for these sectors
Sectors projected to see the highest gains in job creation include education and health services, construction and professional and business services, according to data compiled by the OEO.
Arizona already is experiencing an explosion of advanced manufacturing in industries like semiconductors and electric vehicles.
Last year, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company announced the addition of 1,600 jobs and construction of a new semiconductor fabrication facility in Phoenix.
In March, Intel announced adding 3,000 jobs along with two new semiconductor fabs in Chandler. Intel’s $20 billion investment represents the largest private sector investment in state history.
Electric and alternative fuel vehicle companies like Lucid, Nikola, and ElectraMeccanica, which have manufacturing facilities in the state, are projected to add thousands of jobs in coming years. That means more jobs for suppliers and support industries as well.
“Arizona has become a jobs magnet,” Ducey said. “Not only are jobs booming, wages are rising faster at one of the fastest rates in the country. Our recovery is moving forward and there is more opportunity before us than ever before.”
This story was originally published at Chamber Business News.