Irma Sanchez recently moved from Los Angeles to the East Valley to improve her family’s quality of life.
"California is beautiful, but it’s more of a fast life," she said. "I needed to relocate because I have two individuals who I care for, and it’s a different scenery here. It’s more relaxing, more comfortable, and it’s better to bring up a family."
Sanchez lives in Ahwatukee Foothills and is looking for a job. She has high hopes of landing employment soon and is amazed by all the job opportunities.
According to the Arizona Department of Economic Security, there’s good reason for Sanchez and other job seekers to feel optimistic.
"We’re having a good resurgence of nonfarm job growth," said Jack York, a DES economist. "It’s averaging 4 percent (year-over-year growth) this year. It hasn’t been that strong since about 2000, when it averaged 3.7 percent."
Annual nonfarm job growth sank to 1 percent in 2001 and bottomed out at no growth in 2002, according to DES. It began climbing to 1.4 percent in 2003 and 3.4 percent last year, and is expected to reach 4.2 percent this year.
Evidence of the surging economy was abundant at last week’s Jobing.com Career Expo in the Phoenix Civic Plaza.
"We’re up to more than 240 employers attending, whereas a year ago we were probably at 125," said Greta Suda, Jobing.com’s director of community relations.
Thousands of job seekers attended the event, including Sanchez.
Today’s job growth is not as widespread across a spectrum of industries as in 2000 before the post-Sept. 11 economic downturn. Arizona’s economy, despite subtle signs of future slowing, was growing rapidly in 2000 with every industry sector showing year-over-year job growth, according to DES. Information, which includes telecommunications, showed the highest growth, followed by professional and business services, other services and construction.
For the first six months of 2005, natural resources and mining, construction, education and health services, and professional and business services led in job growth. But there is weakness in two sectors this year — information, which is down .5 percent, and manufacturing, which is up just .4 percent compared to 1.2 percent in 2000.
Telecommunications is still losing jobs because of all the overbuilding that took place before the dot-com bust, said Tracy Clark, an economist at the Bank One Economic Outlook Center at Arizona State University.
"We put so much fiber into the ground that wasn’t used that there’s a lot of expansion that can occur before they have to do anything other than flip a couple of switches," he said. "Also, there’s a lot of turmoil in telecommunications from the standpoint of nobody really knows where most of the growth is going to occur. Is it going to be fiber optics, or cell phones, or wireless?"
Manufacturing employment is gradually coming back and is expected to get a boost when Intel builds its $3 billion fab plant in Chandler, Clark said.
"Probably that investment by Intel is going to generate a fair number of additional jobs because of suppliers and secondary companies having to expand to support that plant," he said.
York believes the Valley’s economy is now less diversified.
"We’ve seen substantial losses in our manufacturing and information industries," he said. "We’re becoming more dependent on services, and the big driver now is growth in commercial and particularly residential real estate."
On the other hand, Clark believes the economy is more diversified because it no longer relies heavily on semiconductors and telecommunications for most of the growth.
In the meantime, a growing number of employers are actively recruiting in the East Valley.
"We’re looking for a lot of loan officers and customer service people," said Tony Crisci, a team leader in the recruiting department of Countrywide Financial Corp. "We have a lot of jobs that are opening up in our Chandler facility. We have offices all over the Valley and they’re all looking for loan officers as well. But primarily the Chandler facility is where all the growth is going to happen."
Countrywide Financial plans to expand its operation in Chandler from 26 acres to more than 50 acres with an eventual work force of 4,000 people.
DHL Express, which is gaining market share in the shipping industry, also is recruiting constantly. The company has call centers in Tempe near ASU and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, said Jennifer Wade, a call center supervisor.
"We also have our information technology facilities up in Scottsdale, and our operations locations are located all around the Valley," she said.
DHL has ramped up its hiring to better compete in an industry that has long been dominated by FedEx and UPS, Wade said.
More than 1,000 employers are searching for job candidates at any given time on Jobing.com, said Brian Eastwood, the company’s director of communications.
"I definitely anticipate us getting back to a level . . . where the amount of unemployed out in the market is very, very low and employers are competing for top talent out there," he said.