More people are employed in Arizona than before the pandemic

A significant milestone in Arizona's economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic has been reached, as the state's labor force is now larger than it was before the pandemic.

No one is saying the economic pain of this pandemic is over, but this news means we’re a lot closer to the finish line.

"We’ve been going through a growth spurt. We’ve hired employees in the last couple of weeks and we’re looking to hire another three to four positions right now, so things are going well," says Travis Gooden with Plasteel.

The company name Plasteel proves to manufacture everything from plastic to steel at their Tempe location. From cases, to plane parts, even crafted items now in outer space, Gooden says things are now going well for the company of a few dozen employees.

It’s not just them, either. Many Arizona companies are starting to see growth and that means jobs.

"Current levels are now above pre-pandemic levels," says Doug Walls with the Office of Economic Opportunity in the Arizona Commerce Authority.

The state's labor force is now larger than it was before the pandemic began and is far outpacing national growth, he says.

Adding, "With an increase in the labor force, it generally speaks to people’s optimism about finding employment."

That optimism has lead to job growth, but it still might take a full year, Walls says, for a complete recovery.

Certain sectors in the state are zooming ahead though, such as construction and manufacturing.

"We saw a lot of other states shut those industries down entirely and that wasn’t necessarily the case here in Arizona, so we’ve been seeing those industries bounce back faster than the U.S.," Walls says.

Gooden has noticed this too, saying, "I can feel there is growth. I can feel the improvement, but I had no idea it had gotten to that state of mind already. So that’s a great thing."

Something the Arizona Commerce Authority pointed out is if Arizona had kept the same pace as the national average, we’d have 60,000 fewer jobs in Arizona than we do now.

As far as the hospitality industry, numbers show it's gained more jobs than any other industry thus far since the pandemic in the state. About 7,000 jobs have been added as of March.

Right under the hospitality industry's gain is the construction industry with about 3,200 additional jobs.