Just Thinking

Arizona Ranks Near Bottom In Jobs Per Capita

by Richard Gilman

Arizona has fewer jobs for its size than most anywhere in the country.

This conclusion, drawn from the latest records of the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, is a primary reason why Arizonan’s per capita income ranks 41st in the country.

Of all the states, only West Virginia has fewer jobs per capita – and that’s by the barest of margins. One has to take the calculations out to three decimals points to find what separates it from Arizona. West Virginia’s 0.495 jobs per capita in 2011 barely trailed Arizona’s 0.498.

Arizona’s low standing is driven partly by the relatively low percentage of its population that is of working age. Contrary to perceptions, that condition is not because of the state’s retiree population. Rather Arizona has an unusually high 25.5 percent of its population under the age of 18.

Those under 18 and those 65 or over added up to 39.3 percent of the population – the third highest rate in the country.

But even when the number of jobs are compared just to the working-age population, Arizona still lags. Nine states actually have more jobs than they have residents of working-age. Arizona has 0.820 jobs for every resident of working age. Only West Virginia and Mississippi have fewer.  Comparison by state

Arizona’s unemployment rate at the end of 2011 was 8.7 per cent, not far off the U.S. figure of 8.5 percent. The difference between the shortage of jobs and the unemployment rate indicates that many of working age who are not employed in Arizona are not even, for whatever reason, seeking employment.

The low employment-to-population ratio was first recognized 15 years ago by economists at Arizona State University.

In their most recent study on the phenomenon, done in 2010, researchers Dennis Hoffman and Tom Rex attributed the low participation in the workforce to a variety of factors.  They cited below-average educational attainment, a scarcity of jobs in rural areas including particularly the Indian reservations, and the possibility that jobs held by undocumented workers in the “underground economy” are not being counted.

The wages for those who are working are pretty good by comparison to other states.  Thinking Arizona’s analysis shows that Arizona workers were paid $49,246 per job in 2011, ranking them 21st in the country. But that figure is diluted by the high number of people who aren’t working. Arizona’s wages per capita were $24,519, ranking 40th.

Arizonans’ income from all other sources was unexceptional at $10,543 per capita, just below the U.S. average.

Total income per capita, which is calculated from all sources including employment, was $35,062. That ranks Arizona 41st among the states.  Complete rankings

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