Job growth in Arizona will slow to a 1.9 percent increase this year and nudge up to 2.1 percent in 2014, part of a "new normal" in the post-recession economy, a state economist predicts.
The annual state jobs forecast was released Thursday by the Office of Employment and Population Statistics, predicting Arizona will add 45,900 non-agricultural jobs this year and another 51,800 in 2014.
State job growth in 2012 was 2.0 percent. Before the recession of 2008-2011, Arizona job growth peaked at just under 6 percent in 2007.
For the next two years, the Phoenix metropolitan area, comprised of Maricopa and Pinal counties, will lead the way, with 83,400 net jobs added, the forecast said. That represents an annual increase of 2.4 percent.
Tucson and Pima County will lag, adding 3,000 jobs this year, an increase of 0.8 percent, and another 3,900 next year. The state's other 12 counties are forecast to add 2,700 jobs this year and 4,600 next year.
"I call this the new normal because we are in different times right now," said Aruna Murthy, director of economic analysis for the employment statistics office. She led preparation of the forecast.
Murthy said the state's population growth and the federal fiscal issues, including this year's budget cuts and the increased payroll tax, are key factors in the state's modest job growth expectations.
"If you look at the early part of the decade (2001-05), the population was growing like anything in Arizona," Murthy said. Then came the recession, and growth slowed considerably. Last year, it was 0.9 percent, and this year it is expected to be 1.1 percent, well less than half of the average in the last decade, Murthy said.
"While we are seeing growth, we are not seeing growth where we saw it in the early part of the decade," she said, adding that 10 of the 11 employment sectors her office tracks will show gains.
The biggest growth in job numbers will be in leisure and hospitality, in essence the tourism industry, with 18,100 jobs to be added this year and next, a 3.0 percent increase, Murthy said.
The biggest percentage increase will be in construction, at 5.8 percent, which means 12,200 jobs over two years, she said.