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New figures show state’s economy continues to plug along

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Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 10:45 am

The Department of Administration reports Arizona’s jobless rate last month was 7.9 percent. That’s the third straight month at that level.

By contrast, the nation’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped by a tenth of a point last month, to 7.5 percent.

Economist Aruna Murthy said a closer analysis shows a mixed bag.

On one hand, the state did add 5,200 jobs in April. And that does beat the 10-year average of 4,600 additional jobs for this time of the year.

But Murthy said that average also includes years where the state was losing jobs — and quickly. In fact, the 2009 report showed a net loss of 17,400 jobs.

A better comparison, she said, would be to start in 2010 after the end of the recession. And this year’s 5,200 job gain is below the average for the past three years.

A closer analysis of the numbers shows both good and bad news.

Murthy said the 2,100 job gain in retail trade is the best since the recession ended. There also was strong growth in employment in wholesale trade.

And Arizona added 3,100 jobs in professional and business services.

But much of that was offset by actual declines in the number of people working in private education. Murthy said that is no real surprise.

“As the economy improves, the enrollment in some of these private schools, private education on-line schools, do go down,” she said. Put simply, people go back to school to improve their skills when jobs are tight, a process that reverses when more jobs become available.

Murthy said, though, she sees a bright spot on the horizon for the financial services sector.

“This particular sector was not doing well,” she acknowledged. But Murthy pointed to recent announcements by some major firms, including State Farm and Union Bank, that they will be locating or expanding here.

“The future of this sector seems to be looking brighter than it was previously,” she said.

Overall, employment in the state is 48,000 more than a year earlier.

Unemployment rates

(not seasonally adjusted unless otherwise stated)

Area Apr ‘13 Mar ‘13 Apr ‘12

AZ (seas adj) 7.9% 7.9% 8.4%

AZ 7.8% 7.8% 7.8%

U.S. (seas adj) 7.5% 7.6% 8.1%

Apache 19.2% 19.3% 18.7%

Cochise 8.3% 8.3% 7.7%

Coconino 7.7% 8.1% 7.7%

Gila 9.1% 9.2% 8.9%

Graham 8.1% 8.0% 8.7%

Greenlee 5.9% 6.3% 5.0%

La Paz 9.2% 9.5% 8.7%

Maricopa 6.5% 6.6% 6.7%

Mohave 9.6% 9.6% 9.3%

Navajo 15.0% 15.2% 14.7%

Pima 6.7% 6.8% 6.7%

Pinal 8.4% 8.4% 8.3%

Santa Cruz 16.8% 16.7% 14.9%

Yavapai 8.1% 8.3% 8.1%

Yuma 30.0% 25.9% 26.3%

Source: Arizona Department of Administration

Sector employment in 1,000s

Sector April 2013 At its peak*

Total nonfarm 2,515.4 2,713.6

Manufacturing 154.8 187.4

Natural resources & mining 12.8 14.3

Construction 119.6 247.5

Trade, transportation, utilities 480.9 549.2

Information/ 38.7 55.6

Financial activities 182.3 187.2

Professional & business services 359.3 408.7

Private education & health services 373.3 323.2**

Leisure & hospitality 282.0 279.1

Other services 85.1 102.0

Government (including public education) 426.6 449.0

* Different sectors have different peak dates

** Prior peak in October 2008 before recession

• Source: Arizona Department of Administration

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