Tucson's economic output saw the largest growth among large metropolitan cities in six Mountain West states in early 2010 versus the last months of 2009, a new report says.
The stagnant housing market and prevalent joblessness not- withstanding, the total amount of goods and services produced in Tucson during the first quarter of 2010 grew by 1.4 percent, a tie with Ogden, Utah, said the study, from Brookings Mountain West.
Tucson's economic growth - expressed as gross metropolitan product - was about 0.5 percent greater than that of the nation as a whole.
Since the first months of 2010, growth has throttled back, however. "This is one of the enigmas of this economy," said Mark Muro, co-director of Brookings Mountain West. "We've seen OK-to-solid output growth followed by tepid-to-modest growth."
Brookings Mountain West research focuses on economic and developmental growth of Western cities.
Historically, the West bounces back rapidly from recessions, Muro said, but generally not without job creation.
Part of Tucson's stability may come from its status as a "university town," Muro said. "Large universities are big employers."
"The university is a big driver," agreed Marshall Vest, director of the University of Arizona Economic and Business Research Center at the Eller College of Management.
Vest said the Brookings numbers "reflect the very early stages of recovery" for Tucson.
While Tucson had the best economic-activity growth among similar markets, including New Mexico, Nevada and Utah, Muro said, it still retained low to negative job growth between the fourth quarter of 2009 and first quarter of this year. Increased activity overall in the wake of rising unemployment could be attributed to workers meeting increased labor demands or the rise of new technologies, Muro said.
"New and diverse fields are the keys to the future and succeed where the same old stuff won't," he said. While tourism flounders, Muro said, science and government sectors could be keeping Tucson afloat.
"This is a starting point," Muro added, and if Tucson's economic pattern shows signs of continuing smoothly, "we can anticipate job growth soon."
"According to these figures," Vest said, "the recession is over for Arizona's large metropolitan cities."
Percent change in gross metropolitan product (GMP) of large Southwestern cities among six Mountain states:
Tucson 1.4 percent
Ogden, Utah 1.4 percent
Colorado Springs 1.2 percent
Salt Lake City 1.2 percent
Denver 1.2 percent
Phoenix 1.2 percent
Boise, Idaho 1.1 percent
Provo, Utah 1.1 percent
Albuquerque 0.9 percent
Las Vegas 0.3 percent
Source: Brookings Mountain West
Charlie Golestani is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org