Survey: Little Private-Industry Job Growth In Arizona Last Month

By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Friday, May 22, 2015 - 10:23am
Updated: Friday, May 22, 2015 - 10:25am

Arizona posted one of its most disappointing employment pictures last month since the end of the recession.

On paper, the seasonally adjusted jobless rate dropped two-tenths of a point to 6 percent. But economist Aruna Murthy said that's based on a survey of households asking occupants if they're working or looking for work.

A far more extensive survey of businesses throughout the state showed that private-industry jobs grew by just 300 between March and April. That's the smallest growth for any April since the recession ended.

Murthy said she found that the pattern of job losses in some sectors of the Arizona economy mirror what she saw before the last recession.

"I wouldn't say we are beginning to have a recession. But I just feel like there's some slowing down happening in the economy," Murthy said.

Of note is what's happening in the retail sector, where close to one out of every five Arizona jobs are located.

"While the U.S. is continuing to grow, Arizona numbers are declining when it comes to the retail sector. That concerns me a little bit just because that's a large sector. When something's happening in the Arizona economy they are driven by what happens in the larger sectors," said Murthy. "And I think that is what is happening here."

That's only part of the problem. Murthy reports that while average weekly earnings nationally have continued to rise at a fairly steady rate, federal statistics for Arizona show a trend that is flat and, in some cases, actually declining in the last two years. And that's not even considering inflation.

A key indicator of why that may be happening showed up Thursday as Comcast announced it was going to hire 1,100 people for a Tucson call center. At the same time, the new jobless report shows the Tucson area shedding 1,300 private-sector jobs, including 300 in the high-paying aerospace industry.

Still, Murthy said, those call-center jobs are better than nothing.

"Any type of job allows people to spend money. And that has ripple effects across the economy. Whether it is a $10 job or a $20 job, a job's a job," said Murthy>

Murthy also said she is concerned about the state's manufacturing sector, where there are 1,300 fewer people employed statewide now than a year earlier. That translates into a 0.8 percent decline, compared with a 1.6 percent increase nationally.

Unemployment Rate In Arizona, U.S. Through March 2015

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