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SPPI Employment Index: September-February

Recession? Not here!

Inflation, bank failures, nuclear brinksmanship — nothing seems to be slowing job creation in the American Southwest. The SPPI’s six-month tracker shows employment gains in seven of the region’s eight states. Optimism remains the order of the day.

Utah and Arizona averaged 0.15 percent monthly growth during the period, followed by Texas and New Mexico (0.12 percent), Oklahoma and Colorado (0.09 percent), California (0.01 percent) and Nevada (-0.01 percent).

Tough break for the Silver State — and even worse, its February unemployment rate was the worst in the nation, at 5.5 percent. Utah (2.4 percent), Colorado (2.9 percent), and Oklahoma (3.0 percent) beat the national mark, with New Mexico tying the U.S. rate of 3.6 percent. Arizona (3.7 percent), Texas (4.0 percent), and California (4.3 percent) have room for improvement.

A final data dump on our region: With the release of February’s numbers, we can now conduct a three-year assessment of how employment fared since the last pre-lockdown month. On this metric, the American Southwest is 6-for-8. Between February 2020 and February 2023, Utah led the nation in job growth, at 8.0 percent. Arizona (6.4 percent) and Texas (5.1 percent) were clustered toward the top as well. Oklahoma (3.4 percent) and Colorado (2.9 percent) posted respectable gains. New Mexico (0.8 percent) wasn’t impressive, but at least it bested California and Nevada, both of which have yet to climb their way back to pre-lockdown levels of employment. The latter’s tourism-dependent economy suffered, to a large degree, from stay-at-home hysteria. But the former’s wounds are almost entirely self-inflicted.

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