National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun continues to point to jobs as the key to real estate recovery. “Given the rock-bottom mortgage interest rates and historically high housing affordability conditions, the pace of a sales recovery could pick up quickly, provided the economy consistently adds jobs,” he said last month. “What we clearly need is job creation. The job creation is occurring but at a very slow pace.”
On the other hand, according to the recent Challenger Labor Day Outlook, the job market is rebounding sooner and faster compared to jobless recoveries that followed the previous two recessions. “By most accounts, we are barely a year into the recovery. At this point in the previous two recoveries – following the 1991 and 2001 recessions – the job market was actually getting worse,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
“Many people are so caught up looking at the weekly and monthly numbers that they fail to look at the bigger trends, which indicate just how much the job market has improved over the last twelve months,” Challenger explained. The outlook points to positive trends in a number of national employment indicators, including the pace of layoffs, the unemployment rate and job creation.
To find out whether Northern Arizona is tracking with the nation, Flagstaff Business News asked local employers to share their job numbers. Bill Calloway, plant manager at Nestle Purina PetCare Company, revealed that the Flagstaff location added jobs in the past twelve months.
“We are both a distribution and manufacturing site,” said Calloway. “Last year, we completed a plant expansion that increased capacity by 20 percent. We had to staff-up for the expansion.”
Nestle now employs 240 people at the Flagstaff location. “150 employees have been added steadily over the past seven years,” said Calloway. The pet food “business continues to be quite good,” he added. “This is one of only a few companies where, for those who desire it, you can actually start and retire with the same company.”
Christina Lundgren, human resources manager at Nestle Purina, is in the process of filling five salaried positions and two hourly warehouse positions. Nestle Purina hired 26 hourly employees and fourteen salaried employees in the past twelve months. That compares to 40 hourly and 11 salaried in the previous 12-month period. Lundgren reported, “There are [fewer] job openings this year because [during economic downturns] people tend to stay longer and don’t move around as much.”
Janet McNeese, director of human re- sources at Flagstaff Medical Center, one of the top employers in Northern Arizona, sees a similar trend. “As the economy comes back, we might see more movement in positions, and that may mean more openings.
“Because our excellent administrative team has kept us in a financially strong situation, we haven’t had the job cuts that other hospi- tals in the state have experienced. Because we have the ability to remain [financially] stable, we haven’t had to make drastic measures like lay-offs,” McNeese said.
“We don’t anticipate job eliminations in the future,” she said, and in fact, reports that she filled 135 openings this year, compared to 83 last year. “When we found ourselves in the recession, we had an opportunity to hold off on hiring. But as the census begins to grow and the economy comes back a bit, we are now actively recruiting 50-60 percent more positions than last year.”
As for the future of healthcare jobs in Northern Arizona, McNeese points out a few unknowns. “We have no idea how healthcare reform will affect hospitals. Our focus will be on the needs of our patients and our community. We serve the northern half of the state, a very large population.
“Our biggest celebration is that we haven’t found ourselves in a situation for lay-offs,” said McNeese.
Kevin Burke of the City of Flagstaff did not deliver such positive news. “The city is following the national trend of municipalities lagging behind the private sector.” The City of Flagstaff’s fiscal year ended on June 30 and with the new year came reduced budgets that forced the elimination of 35 positions. Thanks to attrition and retirement, only six people lost their jobs through lay-offs.
“If we don’t see more money coming in, we’ll see further reductions next year,” lamented City Manager Burke. “That’s not saying we don’t have positions open. We have turnover and we are hiring for vacant positions.”
Pink Jeep Tours’ Jacquie Wishnewski reported, “While many businesses saw significant reductions in sales and employees over the last two years, we are thankful that ours has not been as significant, which is good news for tourism-related jobs in Arizona.
“Our employee count is about the same today as it was last year at this time,” added the human resources manager, who looks after 121 employees in Sedona and about 50 employees at the Pink Jeep Las Vegas location.
Pink Jeep Tours added one full-time position to its Customer Service Department this year and will “likely plan for some small growth and add approximately five percent
more employees” next year. Wishnewski will be hiring for ten guide positions in February 2011.
Jesse Harriott, senior vice president at Monster Worldwide, said in a press release that accompanied Monster Employment Index, “The fact that hiring is more robust than a year ago points to a general improvement in the nation’s hiring conditions as the economy continues its slow but steady recovery.” The index reported the sixth consecutive month of positive annual growth.
If economist Yun is correct, and job creation is key to revitalization of the real estate market, then it looks like Northern Arizona may be on the road to recovery. FBN
Searching for a job? Find employment:
n City of Flagstaff: www.flagstaff.az.gov/jobs.aspx
n Flagstaff medical Center: www.flagstaffmedicalcenter.com
n monster: www.monster.com n Nestle purina: For salaried positions, search
www.nestlepurinacareers.com and sign up for
job alerts. n For hourly positions, contact the Department
of economic Security at 397 malpais Lane
Suite 9 Flagstaff, AZ 86004 928-779-4557. n pink Jeep tours: www.pinkjeep.com