Arizona jobless rate up slightly, but still far below a year ago - East Valley Tribune: Business

Arizona jobless rate up slightly, but still far below a year ago

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Posted: Thursday, August 16, 2012 2:37 pm | Updated: 5:42 pm, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

The state's jobless rate ticked up a tenth of a point last month.

Figures from the Department of Administration show a seasonally adjusted figure of 8.3 percent. That is identical to the national figure for July.

But it is far below the 9.6 percent figure a year earlier.

And Aruna Murthy, the agency's director of economic analysis, said this is actually the fifth straight month when year-over-year job growth in the private sector exceeded 2 percent. And while Arizona lost jobs between June and July, Murthy said that always happens -- and that this year's losses were only half the rate for the prior decade.

Overall, she said, the state is headed in the right direction.

"It's a real slow growth,'' Murthy said. "But, nevertheless, it's a growth that we are seeing.''

The largest month-over-month gains were made in the financial services sector of the economy. Murthy said a lot of this is linked to an increase in real estate investment.

Manufacturers and the construction industry also added jobs.

As expected, there were fewer people working in the leisure and hospitality industry in July than the prior month. Murthy said that always happens when tourism drops off in the summer.

Still to be seen, though, is whether that drop-off will get much worse than expected in the wake of record high temperatures and nationwide publicity about the heat. Murthy said she does not foresee that -- at least in the short term.

"I think people who have made their plans are going to come,'' she said. "If you have booked your tickets and booked your hotels already, I don't know if people can necessarily cancel them all just because the temperatures are high.''

Anyway, Murthy said, none of this should be a surprise.

"They know ahead of time Phoenix is going to be hot when they're coming here,'' she said.

Murthy said, though, that all the publicity could result in people planning future summer visits, conferences or conventions in Arizona deciding to consider alternate sites.

There were, as expected, big losses in government employment, mostly in the area of local education. That is because bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other staffers who do not work over the summer and do not have a contract like teachers for the upcoming school year are counted as unemployed.

While the state's jobless rate matches the federal figure, Murthy said Arizona is "doing considerably better'' than the rest of the nation as a whole.

She pointed out that the number of people working this July versus the same time a year earlier is up 2.4 percent from June. By contrast, the national gain was just 1.4 percent.

The difference was even more marked in retail trade, where the state's 3.1 percent annual growth rate of employees dwarfed the 0.6 percent figure nationally. And even Arizona's leisure and hospitality industry had 3.3 percent more people employed this year than last, compared to just 2.0 percent for the rest of the country.

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