No change in state's jobless rate - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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No change in state's jobless rate

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Posted: Thursday, April 17, 2014 12:15 pm

The state's jobless rate remained unchanged last month at 7.3 percent as the economic recovery remains sluggish.

Arizona added 15,600 jobs in March over February, but that was good enough to only result in a 1.9 percent year-over-year change in employment.

Aruna Murthy, director of economic analysis for the state Department of Administration, said Thursday her analysis of the first three months of this year shows a slowdown in job growth from the same period a year earlier. But Murthy said she still believe the state could get its overall job growth back above the 2 percent figure by the end of the year.

Murthy, however, said it would be wishful thinking to have year-over-year job growth back above 4 percent – where it was in 2006 – any time soon.

One particular disappointing area of the economy is within the manufacturing sector. The state's aerospace industry shed another 200 jobs last month, bringing annual losses to 1,300. Murthy said much of this is linked to less defense spending.

But the data also shows that employment at manufacturers of computers and electronic parts dropped by 200 last month and 1,800 since March of 2013.

Murthy said that is likely a reflection of the fact that consumer demand for desktop and laptop computers has shrunk – and, by extension, demand by manufacturers for the chips that power them.

“People are moving more towards tablets and other types of electronic devices (and) cell phones to get some of the advantages of what they were getting from the computers,” she said.

State officials cannot discuss employment at any specific company which is gathered with a promise of confidentiality, but Intel, maker of many of the chips for larger machines, has left a new state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in Chandler unoccupied.

Intel officials have said, though, that they did create the 1,000 jobs that were slated for the facility but that the work is being done elsewhere. The company is pushing its computer chips for tablets.

Elsewhere in the economy, employment continues to increase in the state's leisure and hospitality sector, including adding 1,900 new workers at bars and restaurants.

Murthy also said the state's employment services companies added 4,100 new workers last month. She speculated, though, that is because some companies that do tax preparation have hired seasonal workers through temporary help firms.

Looking down the road, Murthy said she is keeping an eye on retail employment which makes up nearly 15 percent of all private sector jobs in Arizona. There was no net job growth last month.

Of particular concern are the state's motor vehicle dealers.

Employment growth there has been very strong over the last two years as the country recovers from the recession and people who were nursing along their older cars and trucks finally felt comfortable enough to trade them in on newer models – and take on the new debt that usually goes with that.

But she questioned how long that trend can continue.

“People can buy only so many cars,” Murthy said.

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