Arizona's unemployment rate drops to 9.4% - East Valley Tribune: Business

Arizona's unemployment rate drops to 9.4%

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Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2010 11:45 am | Updated: 9:32 pm, Fri Dec 17, 2010.

Led by strong retail hiring, the state’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate dropped a tenth of a point last month, to 9.4 percent.

Aruna Murthy, director of economic analysis for the Arizona Department of Commerce, said stores hired 8,700 people in November. She said while many of those jobs are likely temporary, it still is a better showing than the last two years.

But Murthy said Arizona still has a long way to go to get back to pre-recession job gains.

In November 2007, for example, retailers added 11,900 jobs over the prior month.

“People are still not spending at the same levels prior to recession,’’ Murthy said. “But it does appear, if you just look at the jump, people are tired of waiting not to spend.’’

The seasonal hiring reported by retailers is only part of the picture. Firms that are in the business of supplying temporary employees also reported bringing on 1,800 more workers.

That willingness of people to spend also boosted employment in bars and restaurants by 2,100.

But Thursday’s report contains a couple of sour notes.

Employment among firms in arts, entertainment and recreation, which generally should increase this time of year, actually is down by about 2,000 from October. That includes everything from symphonies and rock concerts to special events like Cirque du Soleil, which played last month to a half-empty U.S. Airways Center.

Murthy said that, for some reason, the confidence of consumers to spend more on gifts and in eating and drinking establishments hasn’t translated into being willing to spend money on tickets for these events.

What’s also down is hotel employment which generally should be rising this time of year.

“We are not getting the same volume of visitors as we have seen in the past,’’ Murthy said.

“It could be that people lost jobs, they don’t have the money to travel,’’ she said.

Less clear is the impact of SB 1070 on both entertainment and accommodations.

The adoption earlier this year of what was billed as the toughest law in the country aimed at illegal immigration resulted in cancellation of some conferences and conventions. Several entertainers announced they would boycott the state.

Murthy said she would not speculate on that.

The November report also shows a drop of 3,000 workers in the construction industry after several months of signs that sector of the economy was improving.

Murthy said that may be due to a hiccup of sorts.

She noted that construction employment gained 5,100 the month before that, most of that in “specialty trades.’’ Murthy speculated that big hiring bubble may have been due to companies hiring people to do repairs following a hailstorm that damaged roofs, dented cars and broke windows.

Thursday’s report shows that the seasonally adjusted jobless rate in both the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas actually jumped a half a point, with increases in most other areas. But Murthy said that seemingly large jump should be disregarded.

She said the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which computes the state unemployment rate, uses one specific method to calculate the numbers. The figures for the metro areas, Murthy said, are based on slightly different methodology.

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