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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.

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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