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6,300 jobs lost in the private sector between April, May

New figures from the Arizona Department of Administration put the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate at 5.6 percent.

Metro Creative

New figures from the Arizona Department of Administration put the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate at 5.6 percent.

Arizona’s jobless rate ticked up in May for the second month in a row.

But the state official who provides the numbers said it’s too early to tell whether the economic recovery here has stalled.

New figures from the Arizona Department of Administration put the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate at 5.6 percent. That’s a tenth of a point higher than in April and two-tenths higher than March.

That number was driven largely by the loss of 6,300 private sector jobs between April and May. By contrast, Arizona has typically gained about 400 jobs this month since the end of the recession.

Government employment dropped by 13,100 during the same period. But that’s not exactly a big surprise, as most of these losses were in public education, both at the state and local level, caused by the end of the school year.

In comparison, the national unemployment rate dropped three-tenths of a point in May, to 4.7 percent.

Doug Walls, the agency’s research administrator, said Thursday he could not say whether the back-to-back increases are a fluke or a sign of things to come.

“We would have to wait to see for a couple of months to see if this is a trend that’s going to be reoccuring,” he said.

“We are seeing more individuals enter into the labor force, which is going to influence the unemployment rate,” Walls said.

That’s because the jobless rate is based on the number of people who are actively looking for work. If job seekers increase faster than the number of jobs available, the rate goes up.

“We’ll have to wait to see what the longer trend (is) moving forward,” Walls said.

Walls suggested one factor could be “frictional unemployment.”

“When the unemployment levels become so low that people are more confident in their ability to find jobs,” he explained. Walls said that can result in a voluntary decision to quit one job to find a better one.

Whether Arizona’s jobless rate is low enough to promote that confidence, however, remains unclear.

There has been a declining unemployment rate for years.

Last May, for example, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.8 percent. It was 6.9 percent in May of 2014, 7.5 percent in 2013 — and as high as 10.5 percent in May 2010.

But the current 5.6 percent is far from anything near the bottom in recent Arizona history: In May 2007 the unemployment rate was just 3.5 percent.

Around the state, the healthiest job growth in the last month was in Mohave County which added 600 new private sector jobs, a 1.5 percent growth rate.

Most other metro areas mirrored the state, with job losses of 16,700 in Maricopa County, 1,400 in Pima County, 900 in Yuma County, 600 in Coconino County, 600 in Yavapai County and 100 in Cochise County.

But what makes Cochise County stand out is the trend, with total employment down 1.2 percent in the past year. The other areas showed some year-over-year growth.

Unemployment rates

(not seasonally adjusted unless otherwise stated)

Area May 2016 April 2016 May 2015

Arizona (seas adj) 5.6% 5.5% 5.8%

Arizona 5.5% 5.4% 5.5%

U.S. (seas adj) 4.7% 5.0% 5.5%

Apache 11.0% 11.0% 13.3%

Cochise 6.5% 6.5% 7.3%

Coconino 5.7% 5.7% 6.1%

Gila 7.2% 7.4% 7.6%

Graham 7.0% 6.9% 7.1%

Greenlee 8.2% 8.2% 7.4%

La Paz 5.9% 6.3% 7.6%

Maricopa 4.6% 4.6% 4.9%

Mohave 6.6% 6.8% 7.6%

Navajo 8.1% 8.2% 9.2%

Pima 5.0% 4.9% 5.3%

Pinal 5.6% 5.6% 6.1%

Santa Cruz 8.4% 8.4% 9.8%

Yavapai 4.8% 4.9% 5.2%

Yuma 20.9% 18.8% 24.3%

Sector employment in 1,000s

Sector May 2016 Change in last month Change in last year

Total nonfarm 2,698.4 (-19.4) 70.7

Private sector 2,288.1 (-6.3) 74.9

Manufacturing 159.6 2.1 2.5

Natural resources & mining 11.6 0.0 (-1.0)

Construction 136.1 1.5 9.1

Trade, transportation, utilities 514.1 0.8 14.2

Information 48.4 (-0.4) 2.9

Financial activities 204.7 (-0.3) 11.5

Professional & business services 404.1 (-5.4) 12.6

Private education & health services 411.8 (-0.9) 16.6

Leisure & hospitality 309.3 (-2.7) 7.1

Other services 88.4 (-1.0) (-0.6)

Government (including public education) 410.3 (-13.1) (-4.2)

— Source: Arizona Department of Administration