New report: Valley to be in top 5 in US for job growth by end of 2012

Jobs may be coming to the Mesa-Phoenix-Scottsdale area in the next three months at a rate faster than the rest of the country, according to a survey of companies by ManpowerGroup.

In fact, the Valley's metropolitan area is one of the top five in the nation for forecasted job growth in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The report, released Tuesday, found that 24 percent of companies interviewed plan to hire between October and December, while 66 percent plan to maintain workforce levels and 3 percent are unsure of hiring plans. Seven percent of companies said they plan to decrease staff.

During the previous quarter, 21 percent of companies said they expected to hire, ManpowerGroup found.

The upward movement may indicate some stability to an area hit hard during the economic downturn, the East Valley's Frank Armendariz, regional vice president for ManpowerGroup, said.

"This is the second quarter within this same year that we have actually been within the top five" of areas nationwide forecasting job growth, Armendariz said.

The companies that said they plan to hire cross several sectors, he said, from business to financial to health care.

"It is an encouraging sign. It is the fourth quarter when organizations typically tighten their belts," he said. "We continue to have businesses that are looking and forecasting to increase staff. That gives us some correlation that their business is growing or expanding. That's always a positive sign as we're ending a year to give an indication of what 2013 may look like."

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said the report is "not surprising" given that the Valley "got hit from the housing bust and the economic bust after that."

"We went into the downturn earlier and I think we're coming out better than others have," he said Tuesday.

He said companies have been holding back from hiring for a long time while riding out the downturn.

"Things are settling now. They have a little more faith in the future and they have a little more faith about what's going on in the East Valley and Mesa," Smith said.

The mayor pointed to the growth around Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, as well as the four colleges and universities opening in downtown Mesa. Able Engineering will bring 400 jobs to the Gateway area next year. Crescent Crown Distributing opened in Mesa this year with plans for several hundred jobs.

Mitel, a global communications network company, will bring 300 jobs to the Riverview area when it opens a few months from now, Mesa City Manager Chris Brady said.

"A lot of job growth that takes place is not just in these big companies with big numbers. A lot of it happens in the small businesses. That's where we think we'll see a lot of growth. As the economy recovers, we think the small businesses will continue to grow or start and be sustainable," he said.

Otto Shill, chairman of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce, said his group's members are slowly making additions.

"Our members continue to be cautious in light of current economic conditions. However, demand seems to be increasing for those with technical training and skills, engineers, for example. We continue to hear that companies would like to be in a position to fulfill their hiring needs from the graduating ranks of local colleges and universities," Shill said.

Arizona is in fact recovering better than much of the country, according to another recent jobs report.

Research professor Lee McPheters, director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU, said while the rest of the country should see a 1.5 percent rise in job growth this year, he expects the Valley's metropolitan area to see a 2.5 percent increase.

"Is it a boom? No, but I think it's accurate to say we're doing better here than most other areas," McPheters said.

The Valley has "a lot further to go" to get back to pre-recession levels, he said, especially when compared to the rest of the United States.

While the country saw a 6 percent job loss from 2007 until the job market hit bottom in February 2010, the Valley saw a 12 percent job loss.

"We're at about half speed. If this were a normal economy, Arizona would be adding 85,000 jobs this year. We'll probably add 45,000 jobs," he said.

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