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May 19, 2008


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Jon, Any thoughts as to why the unemployment rate in Phoenix has remained low during the current housing bust ? I would have expected double digit rates, but it just hasn't happened.

First, I don't trust the state numbers; the agency has been underfunded for years and is under political pressure to make things be "positive."

Second, the construction workforce is highly mobile and can move; it's tough to track this churn.

Third, it's a trailing indicator; keep watching if things don't turn up.

Fourth, U.S. methodology has been criticized for years for undercounting and not counting those not "actively" seeking employment.

Tonight, it is 48 degrees F. in Phoenix, on May 23, due to an anomalistic weather system. As I commuted home on the 51 through the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, I had the vents open, and the cab of my truck was filled with the subtle, strangely sweet aroma of creosote bush in the rain, present because long ago someone had the foresight to preserve a huge tract of Sonoran Desert uplands in the middle of what would become a megacity. The desert smells like rain tonight, and reminds me of what might have been, had Phoenix played to its considerable strengths instead of trying to be something it isn't and can never be.

Intriguing piece. I also moved back to my birthplace in 03, after 12 years in Seattle and 12 years in LA before that. I was amazed to discover that nothing had really changed, it was just much bigger.

Moving back to Seattle last July, I had a new surprise-- Phoenix was ahead of Seattle on one thing-- Light rail. While I was gone the mass transit plans had actually shrunk. Light rail was shorter, the Monorail I (in a small volunteer way) and so many others had worked so hard to get going was canceled because it wasn't going to be a free lunch. I'd say that is one lesson that could be learned from Phoenix: Stop arguing about transit and just start building it.

OTOH hand maybe in 30 years, when Seattle doesn't have any more transit, we'll look back at a lucky accident. Light rail lines to suburbs encourage sprawl too. Perhaps Seattle will just get denser and people will choose to work where they live even more than they do now. I doubt it though.

Great column. I really enjoyed your columns when I lived in Phoenix, what a surprise to find you here when I got back. I detected a tone in your republic columns that you weren't saying nearly as much as you wanted to.

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