Tucson Job Data Revised Up (A Lot)

George Hammond, Ph.D., EBRC Director and Research Professor

For much of 2017, the preliminary employment data for the Tucson Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggested little or no job growth over the year. That was highlighted on the MAP here. However, based on the EBRC rolling benchmark data, I expected Tucson’s nonfarm payroll employment data for 2017 to be revised up significantly.

On March 8, the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity (and BLS) released officially benchmarked job data for Arizona, the Phoenix MSA, and the Tucson MSA. The revised estimates for 2017 put Tucson MSA employment at 377,200 on average for the year. That was 5,400 jobs above the 2016 average, for a growth rate of 1.5%. (Figures 1 and 2.) That was much better than the preliminary data, which suggested that Tucson added only 200 jobs for 0.1% growth. The revisions did not affect the 2016 growth rate, while rates for 2014 and 2015 were revised down slightly.

Figure 1: Tucson MSA Net Job Growth, Preliminary and Revised

Figure 2: Tucson MSA Job Growth Rate, Preliminary and Revised

Tucson’s job growth rate last year was the fastest since 2012, when the local area also generated job gains of 1.5%. For comparison, revised data suggest that the U.S. job growth rate last year was 1.6%. Arizona added jobs at a faster pace, at 2.4%, as did the Phoenix MSA at 2.8%. As shown in the Employment Growth by Industry category, Tucson’s job growth last year ranked 10th among the 12 peer western metropolitan areas tracked on the MAP.

As Figure 3 shows, employment growth in 2017 was revised up for most industries in Tucson. The largest upward revisions were in professional and business services; trade, transportation, and utilities; construction; government; and manufacturing. The largest downward revision was to leisure and hospitality.

Further, according to the revised data, Tucson’s job growth was largely driven by gain in construction; manufacturing; government; professional and business services; and leisure and hospitality. These five sectors accounted for 70.4% of total job growth last year.

Figure 3: Tucson MSA Net Job Growth by Industry, Preliminary and Revised