State Capitol News
9:35 am
Thu December 5, 2013

Arizona Population Growth Equals Economic Recovery

A panel of economists said Wednesday they believe the state’s economic future appears to be a chicken-and-egg situation. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer explains.

Credit Slate.com

It comes down to this: Arizona’s economy won’t recover until more people move here. But, more people won’t move here until the unemployment rate drops. Arizona State University professor Lee McPheters said the result is that the economy will grow just 2 to 2-and-a-half percent next year, far below the pre-recession pattern. 

“We’ve always depended on population flows to be one of the key drivers of any recovery,” says McPheters. “We’ve never had any recovery that was not accompanied by population flows from other states.”

Economist Elliott Pollack said migration to Arizona is at half the rate it was a decade ago. He said one problem is that many people living elsewhere cannot move because they are upside-down on mortgages, owing more than their property is worth. He also said people used to move to Arizona because the unemployment rate here was low.

“That created demand for goods and services for the people who moved here,” said Pollack. “So it essentially started things going and it was very explosive. Right now the unemployment rate’s high. We’re not creating a lot of jobs. So we’re filling the jobs locally. There’s no need for people to move here.”

And McPheters said all that has acutely hurt the state where, before the recession, close to one out of every 10 jobs was in construction. Half those quarter-million jobs are now gone.