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No 'magic model' to drive growth, ASU jobs guru finds

With the outlook improving, ASU jobs guru knows there's no 'magic model.'
How does your state's jobs rate rank? ASU center offers free data to compare.
Arizona is in top 10 for job creation for the first time since 2013.
ASU professor finds no effect from voter initiative raising state minimum wage.
New feature on ASU economic site shows fastest-growing industry in any state.
March 29, 2017

Lee McPheters oversees one of the most comprehensive employment databases in the nation — and information is available to all

After decades of analyzing data on jobs, Lee McPheters knows this: There is no “magic model” to boost employment.

McPheters is the director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at Arizona State University and has been studying the federal jobs report every month for more than 30 years.

Everyone is always interested in jobs — and no more so than during the 2016 presidential election, when Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to restore jobs.

McPheters, a professor of economics in the W. P. Carey School Business, said the center avoids politics and sticks to the numbers, which paint a complicated picture.

Consider Arizona and California, next-door neighbors that are mirror images. The states have the same job-growth rateNon-agricultural jobs are not included in this statistic. of 2.6 percent.

“Look at California — high taxes, high regulation. And it’s a state that’s losing domestic population,” he said.

“And then you have Arizona, where we try to control taxes and regulation and are a top-five destination for people to move to. You have two different philosophies and yet these states are tied.

“There’s just a lot going on other than what you see on the surface.”

McPheters runs one of the nation’s most comprehensive databases on employment, called Job Growth USA, with statistics on all 50 states, 380 cities and 50 occupations. Some of the information goes back to 1941, when Arizona had 106,000 jobs.

Every month, McPheters and his staff crunch a fresh set of numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and keep their remarkable database up-to-the-minute accurate.

Want to know which metro area had the biggest increase in food-service jobs? Orlando, Florida — 11 percent more in February 2017 compared with last year.

Which metropolitan area just fell out of the top 10 for growth after six years? Denver.

And how is Arizona doing? In ninth place, our state moved into the top 10 for job creation in 2016 for the first time since 2013. Health care was the single largest source of growth, with 13,550 new jobs, 1 in 5 of the 68,000 jobs added in 2016 in Arizona.

McPheters’ latest report is good news for Arizona, which usually means a less intense focus on what he does. Everyone obsessed about jobs during the recession.

“When the economy is humming, people are not as concerned with what’s down because everything is up,” he said.

That’s where Arizona is right now.

“Growth is not as strong as we’ve seen in past recoveries, but we’re still a top-10 growth state,” he said. “We look at the parts of the economy that are doing well — health care, business and finance. That’s encouraging because those are knowledge-oriented jobs.”

McPheters has evaluated jobs data in the state and nation for more than 30 years.

And what about the minimum-wage increase? McPheters also evaluated the numbers for any effect from the voter initiative that raised the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour in January, and found none.

“We looked at food-service job growth, since our analysis showed 75 percent of food-service workers would be affected,” he said. “Compared to past Januaries, this was the largest increase on record, with over 12,000 new food-service jobs added year on year.

“We’ll be watching this play out over the next few months, since this is the kind of state-wide laboratory experiment economists need to really understand the economy.”

The centerThe the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center is part of the Seidman Research Institute, a self-supporting unit in the W. P. Carey School of Business. just added a new feature to the site that shows the fastest-growing industry within any state, by percentage and numbers. In California, the job category “support activities for water transportation” was up 17 percent.

McPheters has seen the tiny ticks up and down every month over the years, and this makes him wary of big jumps.

“During the energy boom, North Dakota became the number one job-growth state, and we just knew that wasn’t going to last,” he said. “Fracking was a new industry. But the question was, is it sustainable? And it wasn’t. North Dakota is now losing jobsNorth Dakota was the top job-growth state from 2009 to 2014, and it was 50th in 2015 and 2016. The states losing jobs in the February 2017 report were Alaska, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wyoming..”

Besides Job Growth USA, the center also provides the Western Blue Chip Economic Forecast, on 12 Western states, and the Greater Phoenix Blue Chip Forecast. Both of those go beyond jobs, with information on retail sales, construction and wages. McPheters gives about 30 economic-forecast presentations a year for local businesses, government agencies and organizations.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the center published its reports on paper and sold subscriptions, which brought in about $50,000 a year.

“But we saw the writing on the wall that information wants to be free,” he said, and now the database on the website is available to anyone.

McPheters said the center’s work is significant because people love to compare states.

“I’ve found that having the rankings as an indicator of economic conditions is something people can really understand,” he said.

“It’s an important contribution to understanding the health of Arizona and other states.”


Top photo: Lee McPheters, director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at Arizona State University (in his Tempe office Wednesday), said the center avoids politics and sticks to the jobs numbers, which paint a complicated picture. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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ASU Law alum, Bears chairman George McCaskey says Vegas is ready for NFL

Chicago Bears owner George McCaskey returns to ASU Law to discuss NFL changes.
Bears boss McCaskey says ASU Law degree taught him to solve problems quickly.
March 29, 2017

Population data, realization that gambling was everywhere helped ease concerns over Sin City

Chicago Bears chairman George McCaskey said Wednesday that he was skeptical when the Oakland Raiders announced their intention to move to Las Vegas: He thought the city was too small and that gamblers would be too close to players.

But population data and the realization that betting is everywhere changed his mind about taking the NFL to Sin City, he said.

The newly approved move was among a range of topics McCaskey covered in a lecture at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

“We need to keep as much distance from gambling and professional sports as possible,” he said.

“Proper safeguards need to be in place,” he said, adding that he wants to see a league-wide program created to ease concerns. He also said that betting and fantasy football make it possible to place wagers anywhere — not just casinos on the Strip.  

McCaskey’s comments came on the heels of the NFL owners’ meeting in Phoenix where they voted 31-1 to approve the Raiders relocation. The dissenting vote came from Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who said that team owners and league officials owe it to fans to do everything possible to stay in the communities that have supported them.

McCaskey, an ASU Law alum, said the Raiders went through a rigorous relocation process and that “Raiders owner Mark Davis will get it right and get the job done” in a city that projects to be as large as Oakland in 20 years.

The Raiders expect to remain in Oakland for three more years before moving to Las Vegas, where there are plans for a $1.9 billion domed stadium.

McCaskey’s talk with students on his experience as a business professional in the National Football League was at the invitation of Glenn M. Wong, executive director of ASU's Sports Law & Business Program.

The Sports Law & Business Program “values opportunities to have leaders from across the sports industry share their unique and relevant perspectives with students,” Wong said.

He added that the chance to hear from an NFL owner — who has come directly from a conference that dealt with franchise relocation, instant replay and game length — “provides students and the ASU Law community with a unique glimpse into the NFL governance process.”

Recognizing sports is big business, ASU Law partnered with the W. P. Carey School of Business and Sun Devil Athletics in 2014 to offer a Master of Sports Law and Business degree. It is the only graduate program in the U.S. that intentionally combines sports law, business and athletics.

McCaskey oversees the operation and management for the Chicago Bears, an NFL franchise that was founded in 1919 by his grandfather George Halas.

A former television reporter and director of ticket sales for the Bears, McCaskey took over operations of the Bears in May 2011 after his brother Michael retired as chairman of the club after 12 years.

The Chicago Bears are valued at $2.7 billion, according to

McCaskey said while football is a uniquely American sport, the NFL is looking to take the game to an international stage.

“We want to take our game globally and dip into those market shares,” McCaskey said. “We want to grow and think going international is the way to do it.”

The NFL has held regular-season games at London’s Wembley Stadium for eight consecutive years, Mexico City for two years and has plans to play in China in 2018.

While McCaskey said the league is enjoying the additional revenue and fanfare, he foresees myriad legal, tax, labor and logistical problems with placing a franchise in a foreign country.

“Let’s say there’s a playoff game in London and the visiting team wins and flies back to the States with only six days to prepare for the next game,” McCaskey said. “To me, that’s a competitive disadvantage.”

The 90-minute discussion and Q&A session also touched on dipping network ratings.

“The NFL is so successful that any drop in ratings is considered a chink in the armor,” McCaskey said. “Viewership is down, but market share is very much on the up.”

He added that this year’s Super Bowl was watched by more than 111 million viewers.

McCaskey also took time to praise ASU Law, saying his jurisdoctorate degree has made him a much better person.

“It gave me the ability to get to the essence of a problem quickly,” he said, “and it gave me the ability not to be intimidated by lawyers.”


Top photo:  Chicago Bears chairman George McCaskey, an alumnus of ASU Law, talks with Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Professor of Practice Glenn Wong and around 50 sports-law and sports-business-interested people at the Beus Center for Law and Society on Wednesday on the Downtown Phoenix campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now