State's jobless rate falls below 9% - East Valley Tribune: Business

State's jobless rate falls below 9%

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Posted: Thursday, December 17, 2009 11:14 am | Updated: 2:46 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Arizona's jobless rate last month slipped sharply - to below 9 percent for the first time since June - a possible indication that the economy is on the mend.

New figures Thursday from the state Department of Commerce set the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate at 8.9 percent. That compares to 9.3 percent for October.

But it still is far above the 6.4 percent figure a year ago.

Aruna Murthy, the agency's director of economic analysis, said the drop appears to be more than a statistical aberration. But she was not ready to declare that the worst is over.

"I think it's too early to call,'' she said. " We need to have those numbers observed for a couple of months before we can actually confidently say that we have hit the bottom.''

But Murthy said one sign that companies are starting to need more workers comes in the fact that the employment services sector added about 2,500 jobs in November. These reflect those who work for temporary help firms.

Murthy said, that, in some ways, is a leading economic indicator: Firms start out by bringing on temporary workers until they are sure they can actually hire full-time employees.

Not all the economic news Thursday about Arizona was positive.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that state personal income - the total dollar figure of what everyone in Arizona is earning through wages and other income - was virtually unchanged between the second and third quarters of this year. The figure was $217.5 billion for the third quarter, down about $100 million from the prior period.

That compares with a 0.3 percent increase nationwide. And only six states had larger declines in personal income.

On the employment situation, Murthy said that most sectors of the state economy added workers.

The big exception remains construction, which lost another 5,300 jobs in November, bringing employment levels to 27,500 below where they were a year ago.

The bright news was reflected in most of the areas of the state, with Pima County's jobless rate dropping below 8 percent to the same level in June. A year ago, Pima County's jobless rate was 5.8 percent.

Almost a third of the 12,800 new jobs added last month were in the retail sector. Murthy said much of that is likely related to the normal seasonal increase in hiring.

Murthy said some declines would be expected in January.

"But I wouldn't say that all of the jobs will disappear,'' she said.

Another strong area of the economy is in the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 3,100 jobs in November. Much of this is likely employment tied to winter visitors, including 2,000 new jobs in bars and restaurants and 400 at hotels.

Elsewhere in the economy, manufacturing added 800 jobs, with an identical number of new positions in financial activity.

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