Arizona Horizon Banner

October 18, 2011

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Jobs Forecast

  |   Video
  • Arizona State University economist Dennis Hoffman discusses Arizona’s employment outlook.
  • Dennis Hoffman - ASU Economist
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: arizona, jobs, economy, forecast,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The construction industry in Arizona is half of what it used to be five years ago. But construction employment is showing signs of improvement. I'll talk to an economist about Arizona's overall job market. But first, Mike Sauceda tells us more about the uptick in construction hiring.

Mike Sauceda: This is the sound of construction jobs being added in Arizona. A massive hail storm hit the Phoenix area last October, damaging roofs and air conditioners- a factor leading to more construction work in the Grand Canyon state. Before the hail storm, the state was pelted heavily by the housing crisis and the shadow inventory of 60,000 foreclosed homes that have not been put on the market yet. But the clouds appear to be breaking. For five straight months, Arizona has seen a slight increase in construction jobs after years of huge losses. The new jobs are putting people like Pete Dale back to work. He was without a job for a year.

Pete Dale: Nothing to do, just -- the shock used to being busy and working every day, it was a shock. Financially, it hurt. Thank God my wife still had her job and we had investments and money saved up. Financially it did hurt me a little bit. It took away from my retirement.

Mike Sauceda: Just a few weeks ago, Dale was hired as a supervisor by Lyons Roofing, a Phoenix firm. Ann Pepper said the outfit had to add 50 employees to a staff of 75 quickly after the hail storm hit.

Ann Pepper: It's not just growth, we've had the best year we've ever had. We still have work and will have work through the first quarter of 2012.

Mike Sauceda: But home remodeling and repair are also creating jobs. Rosie Romero is a long time contractor and hosts a program on home improvement broadcasting throughout Arizona.

Rosie Romero: We're seeing those folks who wanted to remodel in '06, '07, or '08 and then the economy did what it did and they caught their breath and they’ve held it for the last three, four, five years and now they're exhaling a little bit and saying, “You know what? I’m going to go ahead and do the project I've been waiting four years for, but I'm going to scale it back. I’m going to scale it down.”

Mike Sauceda: Aruna Murphy is an economist with the state of Arizona who tracks employment figures. Arizona peeked with 247,000 construction workers, a figure that's fallen by more than half, but there has been improvement.

Aruna Murthy: Since March of this year, I think for the past five months, we’ve seen a month after month in increase and a total increase of 8,200 jobs. Unless we find a long term trend in gains, I wouldn’t feel comfortable we're out of the woods.

Mike Sauceda: Murthy says among the construction subsectors, the biggest is in specialty trades. Workers who do remodeling and repair. The increase in construction employment may be small but it's welcome news to construction workers like Dale who weathered the storm of unemployment.

Pete Dale: I’m happy to be back to work.

Ted Simons: Here now to talk about the latest forecasts for the job market in Arizona is ASU economist Dennis Hoffman. Thanks for joining us.

Dennis Hoffman: Good to be here, Ted.

Ted Simons: The construction industry almost reshaping itself but in terms of gradual employment increases in the next couple years, the operative word is gradual?

Dennis Hoffman: Very gradual. Very gradual. I think the video explains it clearly, it's stabilized, let's say, over the last six months, but we lost half the sector. So we're just not losing construction jobs and gaining a handful here.

Ted Simons: Seven tenths of a percent of an increased forecast for this year. 1.2% next year, why so slow?

Dennis Hoffman: You know, this is a recovery, unlike any of the other post-war recoveries, there was a battered economy, wealth erosion unlike anything in fact worst than the '29 wealth erosion and that has really hit some of our employment growth sectors, I think, really the hardest. You know, we've not had a real construction downturn like this, or real estate turn, the '80s were flat, you know, and we thought that was as bad as it could get, but losing half of the sector is in terms of employment is just unprecedented and, you know, there's no real catalyst to get those construction jobs back. That's what we need. We need to kick-start that, and the traditional way would be to wait for in-migration. Interest rates are low, wait for folks to show up or people to move and that would help but we still have a huge inventory out there.

Ted Simons: The previous forecast in April seemed to be higher, this one is a little lower.

Dennis Hoffman: Sure.

Ted Simons: What's going on?

Dennis Hoffman: Well, we read about it a lot this summer, the gyrations on Wall Street. You know, part of it was the budget impasse in July. We had GDP numbers revised and gyrations from Europe in terms of how things are going to happen. It unsettled people. Discretionary expenditures began to change. People will be reading tomorrow, Apple finally missed on a quarter. They announced after-market and they're -- they're -- their price is off 6% after market. We'll see about tomorrow. It's clear that the economy is not as solid, I thought it was, you know, kind of a modest soft patch. I think there's a lot of concerns about the pace of the recovery right now. Fortunately, overall retail in Arizona continues to be reasonably solid in terms of Arizona.

Ted Simons: And that seems to suggest the reason that the forecast growth for leisure, hospitality and services, these sorts of things, that forecast seems to be up. Education and health services up, trade, transportation, utilities up, but again not up all that much. And everything else is down.

Dennis Hoffman: That's right. Not up near like in normal expansionary periods. You know, there's some anemic growth. The laggards are professional services and, of course, government, the outlook for state and local government is very negative in terms of any kind of job creation. My guess there will be job losses there.

Ted Simons: You mentioned in-migration. We’re not seeing a heck of a lot of that. Slower population growth in Arizona, first, how slow can it get and how long can it last?

Dennis Hoffman: Wow. Arguably, we're losing folks. If you look at the utility hookups, look at the preliminary numbers, we're certainly not gaining people and that has been as far as construction -- excuse me, as far as a job engine, it's that in-migration and filling the population growth serving positions that has really served as an underlying catalyst for growth and employment and we just simply don't have that.

Ted Simons: Reduced income and reduced wealth, also a major factor there. How does that get turned around?

Dennis Hoffman: Years. Unfortunately. Of climbing a wall of worry. We -- you know, some of the wealth in terms of equities has come back in certain sectors. People are feeling better about their 401(k) than they did in early 2009, but the housing wealth has still taken a huge hit. We've got to work through that inventory and so it's a chick and an egg. There's no demand for products because there's no jobs and there's no jobs because there's no demand for products.

Ted Simons: Yeah, also state and local budgetary constraints mentioned as a factor as far as these forecasts are concerned. How much of a factor?

Dennis Hoffman: I think it's a huge head wind going forward. And historically, that's been a place where people didn't get paid very well, but at least they had some job security. Now, of course, they don't get paid very well. They have furloughs and wage reductions and there's, of course, risks and layoffs.

Ted Simons: Well we are seeing over the year job gains I guess for the first time in three, four years, and the report says job growth will be better here than overall in the U.S. But obviously, something has to change here, Dennis, what needs to happen here?

Dennis Hoffman: Well, I think that we do have an opportunity here, Ted. You ask almost any economist, they say wait until 20 15, 2020, growth will come back. We have under-invested in infrastructure for 20 years, the cost of capital is as low as it's ever going to be, we have idle construction workers and schools that need to be repaired, we’ve set that aside forever. We could accelerate our highway and transportation construction and we could put folks to work there and fix water lines. Infrastructure in the cities. We have opportunities. And you could finance those down the road. With some revenue bonding. You could probably raise some taxes in transportation to finance this infrastructure. Now is the time. You have idle capacity. You have a construction sector that's been beleaguered. Put some folks to work. Create some jobs. The good old fashion way, and build out infrastructure.

Ted Simons: Can you do that on a state level without federal assistance or without much federal assistance?

Dennis Hoffman: I think we're going to have to. If you look at the federal assistance this state already get, I mean, 1.2, to 1.3 cents for every buck we send to D.C. and I bet it's closer to a buck and a half right now. $65 billion show up in the state from D.C. You know, holding out hope that Washington is going to bail us out of issues that we ought to be controlling our own destiny on, I just don't think is the correct strategy here.

Ted Simons: Quickly, is there an opportunity, a chance, a possibility, for some -- we bring you on in six months and something dramatic has happened and now job growth is back up and going and spitting fire?

Dennis Hoffman: Well, I hope that happens. It's hard to see that catalyst. What I'd like to see is an acceleration in some of these plans -- you know, ask the folks at the Department of Transportation, the plans are on the books. The engineering has been undertaken, we could accelerate some of this stuff. We have to get the dollars back in the cities and towns so they can repair the roads and put folks to work there and fix the schools. There's opportunities in this state, Ted.

Ted Simons: All right. Dennis, good to see you again.

Dennis Hoffman: Good to be here.

TGen Breast Cancer Research

  |   Video
  • Dr. Heather Cunliffe, head of the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Research Unit for the Translational Genomics Research Institute, talks about TGen’s involvement in breast cancer research.
  • Dr. Heather Cunliffe - Translational Genomics Research Institute
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: cancer, research, breast, institute,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The Translational Genomics Research Institute in Downtown Phoenix is using genomic research to try to understand, on a molecular level, why breast cancer cells spread throughout the body. Here to talk about the research is Dr. Heather Cunliffe. She's the head of T-Gen's Breast and Ovarian Cancer Research Unit. Welcome to "Horizon." Thank you for joining us.

Dr Heather Cunliffe: Thank you.

Ted Simons: This is breast cancer awareness month. What are the goals? What kind of awareness do we need? This is such an insidious disease and so many touched by it. What are the goals of breast cancer awareness month?

Dr Heather Cunliffe: I think a lot of the things we're learning about breast cancer, many think breast cancer today is becoming more and more curable and while that is the case, we're making significant advances in some area, there are some very rare subforms of breast cancer that we are really failing to provide effective therapies for certain subtypes of patients. I think the awareness that needs to be put out there, there are many different forms of breast cancer, some are very curable, others not. So what T-Gen is trying to focus on those patients for which we don't have, you know, strong therapeutic options. We’re trying to find new options that will be effective.

Ted Simons: A couple of grants you guys are working with. $3.5 million grant from Susan G. Komen on triple negative breast cancer. What is that?

Dr Heather Cunliffe: It's one of those subtypes of breast cancer that I just referred to and the prognosis for woman who are diagnosed with this is very poor. What triple negative means when you're first diagnosed with breast cancer, they run a series of tests to define what kind of breast cancer you have. And there are three tests for the presence of the estrogen receptor, progesterone, a similar hormone, and another protein called HER2. So breast cancer patients who have tested positive for one, two or three of those markers puts them in a category where they can receive a targeted therapy. That's going to block off the fuel to those cancers.

Ted Simons: Got you.

Dr Heather Cunliffe: For women who don't have any of those three, they're triple negative and we have limited options and we need to find what is the Achilles heel and how we can block off the fuel.

Ted Simons: Is there progress?

Dr Heather Cunliffe: Yes, that's what this grant is specifically focused in on doing.

Ted Simons: There's another grant, $50,000 to fight inflammatory breast cancer. Sounds like it's relatively rare. Doesn't sound good, though.

Dr Heather Cunliffe: It's a very lethal rare form of breast cancer which impacts about 1% to 5% of all breast cancers diagnosed in the United States and it's so rare that many physicians who are presented with inflammatory breast cancer cases do not recognize it when they see it. So unfortunately, the disease goes undiagnosed for a period of time and rapidly progresses to the point by the time it's recognized as breast cancer, it's already reached stage four, which is the final stage of the disease and the woman has am extremely poor prognosis.

Ted Simons: We talked about research, obviously, these are tough things for you to get ahold of here and get a handle on. What kind of research will help? I know molecular bio-markers, these sorts of things. What kind of improvements are you all talking about? What kind of research is being done?

Dr Heather Cunliffe: So for example, the inflammatory triple negative breast cancers and other triple negative disease, T-Gen has access to the state-of-the-art technology that survey the entire genome or DNA sequence of a human being. And DNA can be looked at using this technology, so we can comb through and find the needle in the haystack which would constitute the Achilles heel on a patient-by-patient basis. For 100 breast cancers diagnosed there's going to be unique change. So why shouldn't we exploit the uniqueness we can find using those technologies and provide a companion therapy to go with that lesion we can identify that's going to be predicted to be effective for that patient. So don't lump people into a category of maybe it will help or maybe not. Let's go in and find the genetic mistake or the lesion. Develop a therapy or found a therapy that will be effective in that context and enroll the woman in a clinical trial or provide the agent to effectively treat her disease.

Ted Simons: But if it changes so much patient-by-patient-by-patient, it has to be frustrating, every time you're off on one road, there goes another road.

Dr Heather Cunliffe: I don't think so. You can develop a diagnostic test for every person. You can apply the high resolution technology in a rapid manner. We weren't able to do that five years ago, but today it's becoming more and more common place and being integrated into clinical practice and we're taking this progress through a number of institutions in the country and we have access to this technology toward patient care through the Virginia Piper Cancer Center here in Scottsdale, Arizona where we're leveraging the technology for direct patient care.

Ted Simons: It sounds like T-Gen and cancer therapy and study and research here in Arizona is at the forefront. How are we doing as far as finding cures and finding therapies and having this research lead to therapies?

Dr Heather Cunliffe: Yes, we're being very successful. We have a number of oncology programs at T-Gen. For example, we're leading 40 institutions nationwide in an effort called Global Cure to try and find new answers to the treatment of pancreatic cancer and breast cancer, focusing in on triple negative disease focusing in on triple negative disease, and importantly about one in four women of African American descent than can go as high as 80% of women with African descent. So we're trying to define the spectrum of different types of cancer and trying to define which one of those lesions would predict to have an optimal therapy to go with that.

Ted Simons: Are you optimistic?

Dr Heather Cunliffe: Oh, very.

Ted Simons: You are?

Dr Heather Cunliffe: Yes, absolutely yes.

Ted Simons: Yes. A lot of folks want it hear that. It sounds like you really are.

Dr Heather Cunliffe: The technologies are rapidly accelerating to the point where we can develop surrogate tests that can go into the hospital setting and actually develop the answers we need quickly to give the oncologist the power to make a smart decision quickly to provide optimal care without having to waste a lot of time.

Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us, we appreciate it.

Dr Heather Cunliffe: Thank you so much.