Cashing In On Opportunity And Quality Jobs In Metro Phoenix

By  Christina Estes
Published: Tuesday, August 1, 2017 - 5:00am
Updated: Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - 4:32pm

Sponsored by Beach Fleischman

Despite gains in jobs and company payrolls since the Great Recession, many workers feel financially left out.

Pew Research Center examined household incomes and expenditures between 2004 and 2014. It found the median income had declined 13 percent while spending on things like housing, food and clothing increased nearly 14 percent. But, some workers are cashing in.

High-Demand Jobs

Registered nurse Amanda Foster works at Abrazo Scottsdale Campus.
(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)

On the third floor of Abrazo Scottsdale Campus, a large whiteboard with patient assignments greets acute care nurse Amanda Foster.

“It’s ever-evolving and ever-changing,” she said. “Because when somebody gets discharged, 10 minutes later you have a new patient coming up.”

Foster just celebrated her second year in nursing and recalls what she heard in school.

“They talk about once you graduate there’s going to be money and it’s going to be wonderful and you’re not going to have to stress about finances,” she said.

While salaries vary, Foster said a new graduate in Arizona can expect to make at least $25 an hour.

“What they don’t really tell you is that stress follows money,” she said. “What we’re seeing is that one in three (nurses) are leaving within their first two years.”

It’s one reason why registered nurses dominate the list of postings from Indeed, one of the world’s largest job search engines.

“Nurses are required in almost every segment of health care,” said Daniel Culbertson, an economist for Indeed.

Opportunity Jobs

Last year his company released a report on what they call “Opportunity Jobs.” They are jobs that paid more than $57,700 a year and kept up with inflation over the past decade. Out of more than 800 jobs, only 170 made the cut.

“Those 170 positions only account for about 15 percent of the workers that are out there working today,” said Culbertson.

Over the past 15 to 20 years, he said there’s been a polarization of the labor market, “A lot of the opportunity and a lot of the income is going to a select few in our labor market.”

Indeed’s report found more than half of new opportunity jobs are located in just nine states. Arizona is not among them.

“Arizona actually on our ranking of 50 states that have the highest share of opportunity jobs falls at number 20,” Culbertson said. “Twenty doesn’t sound great but is above the average.”

In addition to a high salary, Indeed defines an opportunity job as one that’s at lower risk of being replaced by automation — like a nurse — and one that’s specialized and tougher to fill — like a speech language pathologist.

Quality Jobs

At Arizona State University’s Center for Competitiveness and Prosperity Research, Associate Director Tom Rex is focused on quality jobs.

“When you hear about quality jobs and all, really what you’re talking about is traded sector jobs,” he said. “That’s a very important concept that doesn’t get nearly the attention it probably should.”

Arizona State University Professor Tom Rex says automation and outsourcing reduced production jobs.
(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ News)

On average, traded sector jobs pay more than non-traded and really drive the economy. Intel is a good example of a traded sector company. People around the world buy semiconductors made in Chandler. While Intel announced plans to add 3,000 local jobs over the next few years, Rex said his recent report on quality jobs is mixed.

“You can look at it two ways: metro Phoenix compared to the rest of the state is doing great,” he said. “Compared to its peers though, not so good. And, that’s been true for a long time now.”

In the 1990s, Rex said automation and outsourcing started swallowing production line jobs in the electronics industry. Many have been replaced by jobs in the finance industry. Companies like American Express, Discover and Vanguard have local operation centers that can handle accounts across the globe.

“Salaries aren’t exactly the same,” Rex said. “They were higher in the electronics industry than in finance, but if it wasn’t for all these traded finance jobs this area wouldn’t have grown nearly as much over the last twenty years or so as what it has.”

Among all the states last year, ASU researchers found Arizona ranked second in financial job growth and fifth in health care.

As a registered nurse Amanda Foster enjoys a profession filled with many opportunities.

“You can be bed side, you can be teaching, you can be in policy, you can be in informatics, you can be in primary care,” she said. “It’s so diverse.”

And, while Foster appreciates a healthy paycheck, she said you can’t go into nursing for the money.

“If you go into it for the money you’re going to burn out rather quickly,” she said.”

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