PHOENIX (AP) — New labor statistics show that Arizona ranks next-to-last in its recovery of jobs lost in the Great Recession as it still struggles to dig out of the hole from the collapse of the construction industry.
The United States in May reached an important milestone by recovering all the jobs lost to the recession. But 32 states still don't have as many jobs as they did when the recession officially began in December 2007.
Arizona has 5.17 percent fewer jobs than it did at the start of the recession. Only Nevada had a worse recovery rate. North Dakota, led by a huge oil boom, was first with a stunning 28 percent increase, by far the nation's highest.
Professor Lee McPheters of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University said the state is regaining its jobs so slowly because its construction industry was hit hard by the recession. He expects construction to pick up as Arizona's population grows, helping the state regain its jobs in up to three years.
"Arizona, Nevada, the two hardest-hit states, both states lost 12 percent of all jobs," McPheters said. "In essence, these two states lost twice as many jobs as the nation as a whole. We've got a lot more to recover."
Although there have been signs of life with the Arizona economy as science and technology companies add jobs to the state, it's still not enough to fill the void left by the construction and housing collapse, he said.
Phoenix construction worker Huber Roman, 40, was among those at the Arizona Department of Economic Security office on Wednesday as he has struggled to get consistent hours at his concrete job. Roman said the job market has improved, but it isn't at the levels of the past decade.
"I'm not saying it's how it used to be, but you got some good, steady work," he said.