hoenix employment continued to grow in March, but not at the same pace that the market recorded a few months ago. According to the latest preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the metropolitan area added 9,700 jobs in March, growing 0.5% month over month. That’s down from February’s gain of 14,500 job additions.
In March, the traditional office-using employment sectors — professional and business services; information; and financial activities — recorded job losses. The lackluster performance aligns with the Phoenix office market, which recorded its worst quarter for demand since 2009. Businesses continued to shed unused office space to cut expenses, and sublease availabilities climbed to a new high of more than 4 million square feet. But leasing activity has picked up over the past few months, which could be a leading indicator that companies are adding additional space to prepare for new hires.
The leisure and hospitality sector added the most jobs in March as payrolls grew by 4,100 new positions. Leisure travel in Phoenix picked up in February and March as visitors came to enjoy the outdoors and attend mega events such as the Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament and Cactus League spring training. Hotel occupancy in Phoenix increased to about 71% in March, up from 48% during the same month one year earlier. The sector still has a long road to recovery. It was the hardest hit during the pandemic as travel came to an abrupt halt and continued social distancing crushed hotel and restaurant occupancies and revenues.
Greater Phoenix has recovered about 72% of the jobs lost during the pandemic. Employers must add 68,800 jobs for Phoenix to return to its pre-pandemic employment. Our partners at Oxford Economics forecast Phoenix will return to pre-pandemic employment by mid-2022 in the base-case scenario.
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