PHOENIX — There will finally be as many people working in Arizona at the end of next year as there were employed here in 2005.
But it will take perhaps three more years for the state to hit its pre-recession employment peak.
And even at that point, the Arizona's jobless rate won't be anywhere close to what it was — below 4 percent — before the economy went into the tank. That's because while there will be as many jobs as there were in 2007, the state's overall population will have grown.
In fact, economist Aruna Murthy of the state Department of Administration questions whether Arizona will ever see numbers that low again. She said that the "new normal" unemployment rate for the state easily could be in the 6 percent range.
Not surprisingly, most of new jobs will be in the Phoenix metro area, where about 70 percent of the population already resides.
But even looking at it another way, Murthy said that area of the state will get more than its fair share of the 59,000 jobs she expects for 2014. She figures 46,700 of them — or four out of every five — will be in Maricopa or Pinal counties.
Pima County is expected to add 7,800 jobs in 2014, with the other 13 counties dividing up the 4,400 remaining.
The good news in all of this, Murthy said, is that Arizona — at least statewide — is posting a faster job growth than the national average.
But that has to be weighed against the fact that, to date, Arizona has recovered fewer than half the more than 300,000 jobs lost since peak employment in late 2007. Murthy said that by contrast, the national average for job recovery is 78 percent.