PHOENIX — Phoenix and several other Arizona cities are among those bouncing back the fastest in the job market following high unemployment rates due to the coronavirus, according to a new study.
WalletHub compared 180 U.S. cities using Bureau of Labor Statistics Data using three metrics: change in the city’s employment from August 2019 to August 2020, from January 2020 to August and the city’s overall unemployment rate.
While the national unemployment rate is at 8.4 percent, down significantly from 14.7 percent at the height of the pandemic, experts warn that the rates could rise again due to an uptick in coronavirus cases in some parts of the country. But Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a Sept. 25 news conference that Arizona businesses will remain open regardless of an uptick in coronavirus cases, signaling that the state's unemployment numbers might hold steady.
Phoenix, the fifth largest city in the country, landed on the WalletHub list in the 23rd slot. As of August, the city's unemployment rate was 6.5 percent, a 48 percent increase from the previous year.
Gilbert came in second overall, beating out Phoenix. As of August, Gilbert’s unemployment rate was 4.5 percent. No. 1 overall was the city of Nampa, Idaho, with an unemployment rate of just 4.3 percent.
Three other Arizona cities were included in the top 10. No. 5 Peoria’s unemployment rate was 5.4 percent, Chandler earned the seventh spot with an unemployment rate of 5.1 percent and Mesa rounded out the top 10 with an unemployment rate of 5.7 percent.
According to Garrick Taylor, spokesperson for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Arizona and Phoenix enjoyed a "competitive" economy prior to the pandemic, which likely allowed it to rebound much more quickly.
"Thanks to policies that encourage investment and job creation, jobs were growing at a faster rate here than nearly any other market in the country," he told Patch.
But Taylor said keeping the virus at bay so as to not risk business closures will be key to keeping the momentum going. He also encouraged Arizonans to vote down Proposition 208 on Nov. 3, which he said "proposes to nearly double the top individual income tax rate, which would dramatically undermine small businesses’ ability to come back strong."
According to BallotPedia, Prop 208 would impose a 3.5 percent income tax on individuals making $250,000 per year. The money would be distributed to support teacher salaries, teacher mentoring and retention programs.
Gilbert Mayor Scott Anderson told Patch that the city's activity didn't stop during the pandemic; it simply had to adjust to a new normal.
"I think Gilbert is bouncing back because the level of activity at our businesses did not drop significantly, as patrons used online or takeout services at a brisk rate," he said. "We saw a small dip when businesses were ordered to close, but since they have opened activity has been strong."
Spokespersons for the cities of Phoenix, Scottsdale and Gilbert did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Scottsdale and Tempe also made the WalletHub list, reaching No.12 and No.15, respectively. Glendale was No. 18. Tucson came in at No. 20, with an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent. It was the only city outside of the Phoenix area to make the list.
Peoria, Gilbert, Mesa, Chandler and Tucson all had the most recovery from unemployment from August 2019 to 2020 of all 180 cities, according to the study. The city with highest unemployment rate was Newark, New Jersey, with a rate of 16.7 percent. It also made the list on the lower end at No. 176.