Arizonans spent more on taxable items this past June than the year before.
But it's not at the level to show some real economic recovery.
Figures from the state Department of Revenue put total taxable sales from Arizona merchants at $4.15 billion. On paper, that translates out to an increase of more than 12 percent from the prior year.
But there's a big asterisk in all that, with state revenue officials saying that there were some one-time adjustments that make it impractical to do a proper comparison of the numbers.
And that, in turn, leaves economists looking to the individual elements to decode the trends.
Dennis Hoffman, of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, chose to concentrate on the taxes collected by the state on retail sales. He said that computes out to about a 5 percent year-over-year increase.
And most of that appears to be fueled by consumers buying cars and clothing.
By contrast, Marshall Vest, of the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management, zoomed in on total tax collections. That includes not only retail items but also receipts from bars and restaurants, hotel rooms and contracting.
Part of that is because of those adjustments made by the Department of Revenue, transferring some revenues between sales taxes - those collected by Arizona merchants - and the use taxes that Arizona businesses and individuals pay on items they purchase from elsewhere.
Those total tax collections for June, Vest said, are just 2 percent higher than the same period a year earlier.
Looking just at contracting, Vest pointed to a 5.1 percent year-over-year increase. But he also noted that for the entire fiscal year, which ended June 30, contracting taxes actually slid 5.3 percent from the prior year.
Hotel and motel sales were up a scant 1.7 percent over June 2010, according to the Department of Revenue. And the amount people were spending at bars and restaurants rose a scant 0.6 percent year over year.
"All in all, a pretty uninspiring report," Vest said.
Hoffman, while somewhat more optimistic, acknowledged that the new report does not provide firm indications that Arizona is once again getting its financial footing.
"Growth in retail activity was not as robust in the latest release as it had been for most of the spring," he said. "It will be interesting to see if the July numbers (to be released late this month or early next month) continue the trend toward slower growth."
While the June sales figures are better than in either of the last two years, they still are less than in 2008 - and 9 percent less than when June sales peaked in 2006.