Does Al Melvin Actually Believe What He Wrote?

So, according to Al Melvin's guest editorial in today's Arizona Daily Star, the job market in Arizona is just getting better and better:

Arizona is growing jobs faster than just about any state in the country. A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows only 20 states grew jobs in August. Arizona came in second, by percentage over the month before, with 15,400 new jobs.

Not only that, the only reason Minnesota placed ahead of us was because of rehiring workers after a government shutdown. In reality, Arizona is number one in job growth in the United States.

I see it firsthand, talking to the people who create jobs in Southern Arizona. Many companies are looking for people to hire. Trucking, mining and financial service firms are hiring hundreds of new employees.

Moody's Analytics, an economic consulting firm, likes the look of Arizona going forward. Its study released in late September predicts our state to grow jobs by 1.2 percent, one of the best numbers in America.

Let's just accept the numbers Melvin provides at face value, ignoring that if Arizona added 15,400 new jobs in August, according to the same numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that 8,800 of those jobs were projected to be government jobs, which is almost certainly not the type of private industry growth he's taking a victory lap for. What's insulting about Melvin's claims is that this growth is occurring in any sort of significant scale in Southern Arizona.

Maybe he just wants to look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics' projected numbers for August and see that 352,000 people are employed in non-farm jobs in the Tucson area. Sure, that number is absolutely an increase over July, but then again July (341,200) was the absolute bottom for Tucson's job market since August of 2003, so it wasn't like there was anywhere to go but up.

Take a look at a graph of the number of non-farm jobs in Tucson starting in January of 2010:

Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers

There's no predicting this job market right now, so if you want to take credit for a monthly increase, you also have to deal with the dips that seems to happen every other month. Maybe Captain Al is talking to people that are hiring, but the business down the street is laying people off.

Even so, there's a general projected trend toward the Tucson job market taking off. Look at the Arizona Department of Administration's Employment Forecast Update released last week. If you look at the numbers for Arizona (again, ignoring the nearly 300,000 jobs that disappeared statewide in 2008, 2009 and 2010), there's reason to be somewhat encouraged. They project that 15,500 non-farm jobs will be added in 2011 and another 29,900 in 2012 across the state which is at least heading the right direction. Here's the catch: nearly all of those jobs will be in the Phoenix metropolitan area...15,000 or 96.8% of those jobs going to Phoenix in 2011; 24,600 or 82.3% of those jobs in 2012. What's left for Tucson? Not much (0.1% job growth in 2011; 0.7% in 2012), despite Melvin's hearsay evidence to the contrary.

So, what exactly is Melvin claiming that he's doing for his district and for the rest of us here? Sure, another call center opens every few months, offering a series of $10 an hour cubicle jobs, but where's the private sector growth for anyone south of the Gila River. If there's actually job growth to be excited about (which is still arguable), maybe Melvin should be sending his commentaries to the Arizona Republic. There's at least a better chance that someone up there might see the evidence of his claims.