Health care industry leads in new Arizona job growth

Over the past few years, Arizona has continued to experience low unemployment rates and steady job growth.

According to the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity, the state currently has an unemployment rate of 5.1 percent and saw a 2.7 percent employment increase between February 2018 and 2019.

At the front of that job growth are health care professionals – including nurses, doctors, home health aides, and physician assistants – and the industry is expected to continue seeing the fastest growth throughout Arizona.

“Part of the reason for that [growth] is not just because we serve patients in Arizona but also because we have people who come to Arizona from all over the world,” Jennifer Carusetta, Arizona Health System Alliance of Arizona executive director, said. “If you think about our cancer centers…we have so much innovation and so much great care that’s provided in Arizona. It’s not just Arizona patients that enjoy that care. People come from everywhere to receive this care.”

Over the past twelve months, the health care and social assistance industry has seen a 4 percent increase.

Much of the growth can be attributed to the fact that Arizona has an aging population. According to the U.S. Census, 17.1 percent of the Arizona population is currently 65 and older and that number is expected to peak around 2030.

Having a large population of elderly individuals creates a higher demand for jobs in the health care industry.

“It really is a robust industry in Arizona and part of the reason we’re growing is that the population is growing. Many of the people who are moving here are baby boomers who use a lot of health care,” Carusetta said. “This is an industry that is growing now, it will continue to grow, we need it to grow. We need more health care workforce.”

Even with the growth, however, Arizona still faces a physician shortage.

According to the Robert Graham Center, Arizona will need an additional 1,941 primary care physicians (PCPs) by 2030. The state had 3,808 PCPs in 2010, so it would need to see a 50 percent increase.

“Arizona’s physician shortage is at near emergent levels. We are experiencing low reimbursement rates, inadequate growth in residency slots, and high workload leading to physician burnout,” Nick Goodman, CEO of MomDoc, said.

Arizona health care companies are working on multiple ways to address the shortage, including attempting to strengthen the way in which the state’s health care system attracts and retains talents, making it easier for good-standing health care employees to transfer their occupational licenses to the state, and passing legislation that helps educate the industry’s future workforce.

We have talented students going in and out of our medical schools, we want to continue to grow that. We know that more than 80 percent who establish their physician residencies in a state will stay in that state. So, we really want to incentivize as many people as possible to stay in Arizona,” Carsuetta said. “Health care is great; we have a lot of people who initially go into health care because they want to help people [but] then you have a very specialized skill set and at the same time you have the opportunity to really make a difference or save somebody’s life.”

Emily Richardson

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