STEVE GOLDSTEIN: The overall U.S. economy continues to be in a strong place, with seemingly healthy job growth and unemployment numbers. Arizona is one of the states leading the pack when it comes to a continuing expansion of positive economic news. How healthy is Arizona’s economy? How long could the good times last? With me to talk about that is George Hammond, director of the Economic and Business Research Center at the UA. Earlier today, he hosted breakfast with the economists in Tucson. George, what’s your overall view of the Arizona economy? Is it strong and getting stronger, strong but trending in the other direction?
GEORGE HAMMOND: Arizona is doing really well. We’re generating strong job growth. Our population is rising, income is rising. The unemployment rate is down substantially from where it was just after the Great Recession. So we’ve made a lot of progress in driving the unemployment rate down, but it has been stubbornly above the national average and it’s even begun to tick up a bit over the past six months or so. What’s driving that is actually the fact that Arizona’s labor market, our job performance has been so dynamic. I think what that’s doing is it’s attracting more residents to the state, and it’s pulling discouraged workers off the sidelines and back into the labor market. And when that happens, when people move back move into a state, or they restart their job search, they tend to go through a spell of unemployment. So I think that’s what’s happening in Arizona. I expect the unemployment rate will start to trend down again soon.