High-wage, High-tech Mirage

Political and business leaders are fond of telling us that Arizona's high-tech industries pay good wages and, thus, are making life better in the state.

However, the truth is that high-tech employment doesn't even show up on the radar screen of the Greater Tucson Economic Council. According to GTEC, in August 2001 the Tucson Metropolitan Area's employed labor force consisted of about 382,338 workers. "A review of employment distribution indicates that services (34 percent), government (20 percent) and trade (21 percent) are the largest sectors of employment." That's 75 percent of the employed workforce. How much of the other 25 percent is in high-tech employment? A GTEC official said it has no precise information about the number of high-tech employees in Tucson.

The state's personal income is reported to be growing. In 1998, it grew by 8.7 percent, while the national average income grew by only 5.9 percent. That sounds good until you realize that Arizona's higher percentage increase is because it starts from a lower base. Arizona's per capita income rose from the 1997 level of $22,839 to $24,206 in 1998, representing an increase of 6 percent. Meanwhile, the national counterpart showed only a 4.9 percent increase, but it climbed from $25,924 to $27,203. Thus, no matter how you slice it, Arizona is behind.

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