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SPPI Employment Index: August-January

Cause for optimism — at least for now

The Southwest Public Policy Institute closely monitors the six-month trend in job growth/decline in the American Southwest’s eight states. This week’s numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics were encouraging.

Every state in our region except California experienced employment expansions between August and January. (Yes, even New Mexico was in positive territory.)

Arizona achieved the best average monthly growth, followed by Utah and — seriously! — New Mexico. (The Land of Enchantment’s portion of the Permian Basin is booming. The Financial Times visited the southeast corner of the state in January, and found that “joblessness is plunging, wages are soaring and new tax receipts are flowing to state coffers.”)

The Silver State remains something of an enigma. It’s notched three months of expansion in a row, and led the nation in job growth between January 2022 and January 2023, but that’s not doing much to alleviate Nevada’s unemployment rate, currently the worst in the nation.

U.S. joblessness was 3.4 percent in January, putting Utah (as always) in superstar territory, at 2.4 percent. Colorado and Oklahoma beat the national mark as well. In the region, California was the non-Nevada laggard, at 4.2 percent.

February numbers will be released one week from today, so we’ll soon have fresher data to examine. With the financial world in a whirlwind, the international situation more than a little dicey, and most state legislatures still in session, these are “interesting times.” Policymakers, we’re watching.

By D. Dowd Muska

Dowd brings nearly 30 years of research and writing experience to the Institute. A veteran of several think tanks, he is an expert on government at the municipal, county, state, and federal levels.

Raised on an apple orchard in the Connecticut River Valley, D. Dowd Muska is a researcher, writer, editor, and commentator. His focus is the nexus of fiscal policy, economic development, and technology.

Mr. Muska is the author of numerous policy studies, and his writing has appeared in newspapers throughout the nation, including the Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Detroit News, the Orlando Sentinel, the Cape Cod Times, the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Hartford Courant, the Waco Tribune-Herald, the Albuquerque Journal, the New Haven Register, and The Oklahoman. A graduate of The George Washington University, he lives in the Albuquerque metro area, but has started (very) early planning for a relocation to the Sierra Blanca in Lincoln County, New Mexico. He recently launched the Substack platform No Dowd About It.

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