ASU forecast: Arizona, U.S. could be back near economic normal in 2021

By Russ Wiles | Arizona Republic

Arizona’s economic recovery isn’t painless, and certain sectors — lodging, restaurants and entertainment in particular — could continue to struggle.

As Arizona State University forecasters see it, 2021 will mark a return to near normalcy for the state and national economies — assuming a vaccine next year stems the COVID-19 outbreak and Congress adopts a stimulus package to keep the rebound on track.

The most telling sign of improvement: An eventual recovery in the number of overall statewide jobs lost during the pandemic as rising in-migration pushes Arizona’s population above 7.5 million sometime in 2021.

But it isn’t a painless recovery, with lingering reminders such as an increase in federal debt. Certain sectors — lodging, restaurants and entertainment in particular — could continue to struggle, and so might lower-income workers and others.

“We need about 100,000 (statewide) jobs to get us back to where we were when the downturn started,” said Lee McPheters, an ASU professor and director of the university’s JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center.

Arizona should do better than that, adding about 115,000 net new jobs for a 4% growth rate by the end of 2021, he predicted. That scenario assumes one or more COVID-19 vaccines are widely distributed in the first half of the year and Congress comes through with a stimulus bill during that time frame.

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