Arizona Joblessness Remains Above National Rate - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Arizona Joblessness Remains Above National Rate

December 3rd, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Arizona Joblessness Remains Above National Rate

By Howard Fischer

Capitol Media Services

The state’s jobless rate ticked up a tenth of a point last month – sort of.

New figures from the Office of Economic Opportunity put the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for October at 4.7 percent.

The report issued last month for September also posted a 4.7 percent jobless rate. But Doug Walls, the agency’s research administrator, said that figure was revised downward based on updated data and now, officially, the September rate was 4.6 percent.

In any event, the percent of Arizonans unemployed and looking for work is identical to what it was a year ago. And it remains a full percentage point above the national average.

Walls said the state continues to add jobs. But the rate remains stubbornly stuck where it is as more people say they are available and looking for work.

Some of that, he said, involves people moving to Arizona from elsewhere. But Walls said those who are defined as “marginally attached’’ to the labor force – meaning they looked for jobs in the past but not recently – is decreasing.

“We can insinuate there that they’re more optimistic about their opportunity for finding jobs,’’ he said.

One particularly bright spot is the increase in the state’s manufacturing employment, driven largely by companies that make computer and electronic parts. In fact, the number of people working in this sector is 10.9 percent higher than a year ago, the best year-over-year bump since 1990.

What makes these numbers even more impressive is that one out of every seven new jobs in this sector added nationally in the past year was in Arizona.

Construction employment remains strong with a demand for new housing even with millennials often less interested in home ownership as they are getting married and having children later.

“It’s not that they’re not doing it,’’ Walls said.

“They are eventually buying homes, they are eventually getting married, having kids,’’ he continued. “It might just be taking them a little bit longer.’’

The weak spot in the economy remains the retail sector where employment has grown just two-tenths of a percent in the past year. And there are no signs that’s going to get better.

Walls cited national data which show that online retail sales, which constituted just 4 percent of the market at the beginning of 2009, now is approaching 10 percent.

“‘Brick and mortar’ retail in Arizona is having to compete more and more with online retailers,’’ he said. “We’re going to continue to see retail employment with slower growth than we’ve seen in the past.’’