State jobless rate remains 8.2 percent, but other indicators show recovery strong in Arizona - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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State jobless rate remains 8.2 percent, but other indicators show recovery strong in Arizona

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Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2012 1:01 pm

Arizona’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate remained at 8.2 percent in June for the third month in a row.

But an economist for the state Department of Administration says that does not mean the recovery has stalled here. In fact, Aruna Murthy, the agency’s director of economic analysis, said Arizona had one of its best June employment report in years.

And Murthy said that the employment situation in Arizona is brighter than most of the rest of the nation.

On paper, the state shed 39,800 jobs between May and June.

Murthy pointed out, though, more than 34,000 of these were government jobs, with the lion’s share of those in local education. These are the staffers in public schools who are not on contracts, everyone ranging from bus drivers to cafeteria help, who normally join the ranks of the unemployed over the summer.

Other sectors of the economy, such as hotels, bars and restaurants, also lost employment. But here, too, that shift is common for this time of year.

The real indication, Murthy said, is that state employment is up by 57,300 over the same time a year earlier. And Murthy said that 2.4 percent year-over-year growth is the best for June since the beginning of the recession.

She said that recovery in Arizona far outpaces what is happening elsewhere.

Consider, she said, the construction industry. Employment there is 8.2 percent higher last month than a year earlier; nationally the change is just 0.2 percent.

Some of that, of course, may be a factor of just how far construction employment has fallen since pre-recession days. Even with adding 1,400 jobs just last month, that still brings total employment to just 121,600, still less than half of its June 2006 peak.

But Murthy said the pattern repeats itself elsewhere.

Health care employment is up 3.6 percent since last June in Arizona. The national figure is 2.3 percent.

“Retail trade is doing very well,” Murthy said, with the national annual growth at just 0.7 percent compared with 2.5 percent for Arizona.

Only in manufacturing, she said, is Arizona’s recovery lagging the rest of the country.

What also makes Murthy optimistic is that, once the summer passes, the state has historically been able to count on strong job growth.

“This will pick up again,” she said.

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