Small Town News


2009 economic year in review

Arizona Range News of Willcox, Arizona

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my opinion

The year 2009 was one of the most difficult years for the national economy in decades. The recession, which began in December 2007, reached its depths in the first quarter of 2009, which saw real Gross Domestic Product (the value of all goods and services produced in the economy) decline at an annualized rate of 6.5 percent. That was the largest single-quarter decline since the first quarter of 1982.

From the beginning of the recession through November 2009, 7.2 million people in the United States lost their jobs, with 4.1 million of those jobs lost in the first 11 months of 2009. The number of jobs lost in the first 11 months of 2009 was the highest on record for any 11 month period, with records going back to 1940. The national unemployment rate peaked at 10.2 percent in October, its highest level since April 1983.

At the state level, Arizona faced—and continues to face—its biggest fiscal challenge ever. At the beginning of 2009, the state was facing a budget deficit of $1.2 billion for fiscal year 2009. By December, after drastic cuts to state departments, universities, and counties, cities, and school districts, the state was still facing a nearly $2 billion deficit for fiscal year 2010, with a projected deficit of more than $3 billion for fiscal year 2011.

Locally, Cochise County's retail market, which slipped into recession in late 2007, continued to struggle in 2009. The most recent figures show sales countywide were down 4.3 percent from January through September. Despite the overall drop, the pace of decline has been slowing suggesting year-end sales may break even with those in 2008.

The county's restaurant and bar sales, which were also in recession since late 2007, struggled at the beginning of 2009 but the pace of decline slowed considerably later in the year. Through September, sales were down only 1 percent compared to the same period of 2008.

The county's accommodation sales, which slipped into recession in April 2008, also struggled in 2009. From January through September, sales were down by 5.9 percent with little sign of improvement.

Cochise County lost 550 jobs in the 12 months ending November 2009, which represents a slowing of the pace of job losses from earlier in the year. From December 2008 through November 2009, the county's unemployment rate rose from 6.2 to 7.1 percent. The hardest hit industries were other services, which lost 1 in 5 jobs over the year; information, which lost 1 in 6 jobs; and manufacturing, which lost 1 in 7 jobs.

Despite the increase in local unemployment, Cochise County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state for most of the year. In addition to Fort Huachuca, other strong contributors to the favorable employment situation in Cochise County in 2009 were Aegis in Sierra Vista and the new ACT call center in Douglas. Between the two, they created about 700 new jobs in 2009.

Countywide, although existing homes sales declined in 2009, the pace of decline was the slowest since the housing market downturn began. From January through November, home sales were down only 3.8 percent, following 3 consecutive years of double digit declines. Despite the overall decline in 2009, there were strong sign's of improvement in the most recent data. Sales in July were down 28.7 percent compared to July last year. This narrowed to 7.7 percent in August, and 1.9 percent in September. In October, sales were up 23 percent, but much of that was likely due to buyers taking advantage of the federal homebuyer's tax credit, which was scheduled to expire at the end of November.

New construction, although down from 2008, showed strong signs of a rebound late in the year. From January through October, new home permits were, down 17.1 percent compared to the same period of 2008. However, permits from July through October were up 27 percent compared to the same period of 2008. Permits were up in each month from July through October when compared to the same months a year prior.

Despite a slow economy in 2009, Cochise County did see some good economic news throughout the year. Construction continued on Cochise College campuses in Sierra Vista and Douglas, and construction began on the new Cochise College Willcox Center. Fort Huachuca also saw continued construction as part of its move to replace older housing units. Plans continued to move forward on the new Wal-Mart Supercenter and Sam's Club in Sierra Vista, and Olive Garden indicated its intention to open a restaurant adjacent those businesses. Ace Hardware of Benson and Sierra Vista announced its intention to open a new store in Bisbee. Also in Bisbee, the city completed its sidewalk renovation project.

In Douglas, 2009 saw the completion and opening of the new Best Western Hotel and new Carl's Jr. Restaurant. Benson saw the completion of the 48-unit La Habra Apartments, a new affordable housing complex. Also in Benson, the new Grade's Station restaurant opened for business giving a boost to the city's restaurant and bar receipts. In Willcox, construction was completed on a new justice complex, firehouse, and Willcox Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture building. Also in 2009, Huachuca City opened its new skate park and St. David saw the opening of a new farmer's market. And in Tombstone, the dirt was finally removed from Allen Street, pleasing many local merchants.

So despite lots of bad economic news, there were some bright spots locally in 2009. On the balance, however, one thing seems certain: 2009 will indeed be a good economic year to have behind us.

Robert Carreira, Ph.D. is director of the Center for Economic Research at Cochise College.

If you have any questions on the economy, please contact the CER at (520)515-54$6 or by email at Check out the CER's website at

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Original Publication Date: January 6, 2010

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