Education and health services showed most job growth in Arizona in 2016

Christopher Saunders, a nursing senior from Chamberlain College of Nursing, is gaining experience at Maricopa Integrated Health System. (Photo by Courtney Kock/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Arizona has shown job growth in a majority of its employment areas in the past year, which experts hope will continue through 2017.

The Office of Economic Opportunity’s latest jobs report indicated six of the 11 employment sectors gained jobs over the year.

Nonfarm employment gained about 32,000 jobs over the year, according to the office’s December report. The largest gains came from education and health services, leisure and hospitality and construction. But the areas of natural resources and mining, manufacturing and government lost jobs.

Unemployment was at 4.8 percent in December, down 1.1 percent since December 2015 when seasonally adjusted, according to the report.

Doug Walls, the research administrator for the Office of Employment and Population Statistics, said Arizona’s unemployment was at its lowest level in nearly nine years.

“Arizona has seen over six years of over-the-year employment growth,” Walls said. “The long-term trend is that we are seeing some moderate and steady growth throughout Arizona.”

The Great Recession hit Arizona’s unemployment harder than the national average, peaking at 11.2 percent in 2009, over a full percent higher than the national high of 10 percent.

Arizona’s unemployment rate has steadily fallen along with the national rate since then. For the first time since 2012, Arizona’s unemployment rate is within 0.1 percent of the national unemployment rate, according to the report.

The area categorized as “professional and business services,” which covers about 100 categories of jobs from attorneys to hazardous waste collection to real estate, gained about 1,000 jobs over the year.

Christine Mackay, community and economic development director for the city of Phoenix, said the quality of graduates coming out of the Arizona colleges and universities as well as the cost effectiveness of doing business in the Phoenix area has drawn more strong, high-wage jobs to the Valley.

(Video by Amanda Luberto/Cronkite News)

“This sector drives so much other activity in the market. It drives new buildings being built, they need computers and servers and daycares and where their houses will be,” Mackay said. “That one job will bring in two other jobs in the advanced business services sector.”

Arizona Commerce Authority and Greater Phoenix Economic Council has put an emphasis on attracting companies that offer these kinds of jobs after the Great Recession, which began in December 2007.

Phoenix officials focused on bringing in regional corporate offices such as Carlisle Companies, from North Carolina, and Kudelski Group, from Switzerland, both of which relocated to Phoenix in the past year.

“Farmer’s Insurance this past year announced an operation of 1,000 new jobs in North Phoenix,” Mackay said.

While the professional and business sector brought in the most jobs in December – about 6,700 – education and health services grew the most last year, representing 14,300 of the net 32,000 jobs Arizona gained in 2016.

Sherry Stotler, chief nursing officer for Maricopa Integrated Health System, has worked for the organization for nearly 27 years and said it is always growing.

“We are always hiring,” Stotler said. “You can see things from behavior health nursing all the way to the (operating room) in the hospital out into the clinical areas.”

Stotler doesn’t foresee the health care industry slowing down as the population continues to grow and people live longer.