Arizona job gains can be seen in energy and finance


Arizona's jobless rate is declining, and the improving labor market can be seen in the finance and energy industries.
Arizona's jobless rate is declining, and the improving labor market can be seen in the finance and energy industries.

Arizona's jobless rate has been dropping, and the gradually-improving labor market conditions can be observed in the staffing of positions in both the finance and energy industries. The state's unemployment rate decreased to 8.7 percent in January, which was lower than the previous month's figure of 9 percent, according to Arizona Republic News.

These metrics were sharply lower than the jobless rate of 9.9 percent that Arizona had in January 2011, the media outlet reports. Between then and the same month in 2012, the state created almost 38,000 new jobs.

Government data indicates that Arizona created more than 2.4 million jobs in 2011, and that the actual number of roles created was almost 5,000 more than previously estimated, according to the news source.

First Solar, Inc. announced that it will collaborate with NRG Energy, Inc. to create a 26-megawatt solar project near Tucson, Arizona, according to a statement released on March 12. This new project is expected to result in the staffing of 200 energy jobs. First Solar has predicted that the project will be completed by the end of 2012.

"NRG and First Solar have built a very strong working relationship, starting with our first 21 megawatt project in Blythe, California, to our most recently completed 20 megawatt Roadrunner solar generating station in New Mexico," James Kelly, Director of Development for NRG Solar, said in the statement. "We look forward to working with First Solar on the Avra Valley project that, when completed, will help Arizona meet its renewable energy goals."

Jim Lamon, First Solar Senior Vice President for EPC and Operation and Maintenance, also said in the statement that "we are proud to once again work with NRG as they add to their renewable energy portfolio and create clean energy for Arizona."

He added that "we're excited to construct this utility-scale project using our proprietary tracker system, which maximizes the energy output of a solar facility."

In addition to the two energy firms that expect to start staffing roles in the region, Chase has announced that it intends to hire 200 people for mortgage-related roles, according to a statement released on March 12. The company is holding a jobs fair to interview applicants on March 19 in Phoenix.

The company plans to give special preferences to veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, and is hiring people for the second shift, which will start during the afternoon and end at midnight. In 2011, the company collaborated with 10 other firms in starting its "100,000 Jobs Mission." The plan involves staffing 100,000 roles with veterans and people who are transitioning from military service by 2020.

"The results of our Veteran's Day job fair were tremendous, and now we're adding another 200 full-time positions in our mortgage banking area," Joe Stewart, Chairman of JPMorgan Chase in Arizona, where the company hired almost 1,000 people in 2011, said in the statement. "As we expand, we continue to make a special effort to recruit the men and women who have served our country."

Various market experts have stated that the job growth in Arizona is following the improvements that the national labor market has been making. The state's jobless rate was still 0.4 percent above the national average in January, according to the media outlet. Ronald Gunderson, an economist at Northern Arizona University, has stated that the state's economic recovery will closely follow the national economic recovery. This gradual improvement should coincide with rising staffing activity.