Unemployed man

At least 6,700 Ahwatukee residents have lost their jobs or been furloughed since social distancing guidelines and business closures began to control the spread of COVID-19, according to new tracking maps from Maricopa Association of Governments.

MAG released the map May 21 – the same day the state reported that unemployment in Arizona spiked to 12.7 percent and the same day that state House Republicans turned back an effort to increase Arizona’s unemployment compensation, the second lowest in the country.

The MAG data show 85044 – with 3,464 people filing claims – as the hardest hit Ahwatukee ZIP code and among the 10 Phoenix ZIP codes with the highest number of claims. That was followed by 85048 with 2,695 and 535 in 85045.

MAG’s maps show there are no areas in the state has escaped a rising unemployment claims, but that Maricopa County recorded the biggest numbers of job losses with two thirds of all unemployment claims filed here. 

Other areas with traditionally stable employment numbers also were affected, MAG said.

In partnership with the Arizona Department of Economic Security, MAG mapped by ZIP code the number of Arizona unemployment insurance claims filed since the start of the governor’s stay-at-home orders. 

The data cover claims between March 14 and May 14, so the ZIP code figures liklely have increased in the last two weeks.

 “We went from record low-unemployment levels to record increases in weekly unemployment claims,” said Queen Creek Mayor Gail Barney, chair of MAG’s Economic Development Committee. “The impact of the pandemic on our workforce is staggering.”

In releasing the data, MAG said, “While the death toll continues to rise, the preventative measures in place to minimize that death toll have had an enormous impact on the national and local economies. One measure of that impact has been job loss. 

“From record low unemployment levels early in 2020 to record increases in weekly unemployment claims, the impact of the pandemic on employment figures is staggering.”

Some of Ahwatukee’s neighbors across I-10 also showed high numbers of claims. For example, 85283 in Tempe recorded 4,031 while 85282 just south of that had a staggering 5229 claims. 

Chandler ZIP codes 85224 had 4,080 claims while adjacent 85225 had 6,121.

“These maps can be used by employers and policymakers to understand where there are large numbers of people looking for work,” said Mesa Councilman David Luna and vice chairman of the EDC. “We can use that knowledge to target resources to the local economies that need help the most.”

Arizona’s jobless rate spiked last month to 12.6 percent and it’s virtually certain to go higher in May, officials fear.

Overall, as of the time the Office of Economic Opportunity looked at the numbers in April, the private sector shed 276,300 jobs from the prior month. By contrast, the state normally adds 7,800 workers in April.

The biggest lost, not surprisingly, is in the leisure and hospitality industry. That includes the bars and restaurants that Gov. Doug Ducey in late March ordered shuttered except for take-out.

It also includes hotels, motels and resorts which, while not closed down, have suffered both from the governor’s stay-at-home order as well as the unwillingness of people to travel, particularly by air. That is reflected in data from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee which found tax revenues from these businesses had dropped 57.5 percent from March.

Finally, the category also includes movie theaters, amusement parks and sporting events, also shut down by Ducey’s orders.

Other sectors of the Arizona economy also have been hard hit.

Retail trade shed 43,800 jobs – about 13.4 percent of total employment -- as shops also were affected by the governor’s directive allowing only ``essential’’ businesses to operate.

There also was the loss of 27,800 jobs in professional and business services. And even the state’s health care industry shed 16,800 jobs.

How high the jobless rate will go is unclear.

Beginning with the third week in April – the week after the state does its count of employed – another more than 230,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits. 

Still, for the first time in years, the situation actually is better than the rest of the county, with the United States posting a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 14.7 percent.

It is unclear whether that 12.6 percent figure for Arizona is a record.

Data is immediately available going back only as far as the beginning of 1976. And in that time, the highest unemployment rate was 11.5 percent during the 1982 recession.

As the state was releasing the April data, House Democrats were attempting to use procedural maneuvers to get a vote on measures to increase benefits and allow people to get unemployment payments if they leave their jobs due to unsafe working conditions.

Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley proposed amendments about unemployment insurance to three bills set for consideration by the House Committee on Health and Human Services. 

But because they were unrelated to the underlying Senate-passed bills on breast implants, pelvic exams and outpatient treatment centers for behavioral health, the amendments would have wiped out the underlying bills.

Butler and Rep. Andres Cano, D-Tucson, acknowledged the importance of those bills.

 But they argued that, given the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant flood of people seeking unemployment benefits – 577,000 since the virus hit and the governor ordered businesses shut down – the problems of people out of work took higher priority.

House Republicans made their own procedural motions to prevent the amendments from even being offered.

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