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9:10 PM Sun, Sept. 23rd

Arizona unemployment rate reaches 4.9 percent; US at 3.9 percent

PHOENIX — Arizona’s jobless rate is stalled - and at a rate higher than earlier this year -- even as the national figure continues to drop.

But Doug Walls, the research administrator for the state Office of Economic Opportunity said Thursday he doesn’t see anything to worry about.

Unemployment rates

(not seasonally adjusted unless otherwise stated)

Area / April 2018 / March 2018 / April 2017

Arizona (seas adj) / 4.9% / 4.9% / 5.0%

Arizona / 4.4% / 4.6% / 4.7%

U.S. (seas adj) / 3.9% / 4.1% / 4.4%

Apache / 9.2% / 10.3% / 9.8%

Cochise / 5.3% / 5.6% / 5.4%

Coconino / 4.8% / 5.4% / 5.2%

Gila / 5.4% / 5.8% / 6.0%

Graham / 4.06% / 4.9% / 5.2%

Greenlee / 4.2% / 4.5% / 5.1%

La Paz / 6.2% / 6.3% / 5.2%

Maricopa / 3.8% / 4.0% / 4.0%

Mohave / 5.2% / 5.6% / 5.7%

Navajo / 6.9% / 7.6% / 7.3%

Pima / 4.1% / 4.3% / 4.3%

Pinal / 4.6% / 4.8% / 4.8%

Santa Cruz / 73% / 8.5% / 7.2%

Yavapai / 4.0% / 4.3% / 4.4%

Yuma / 15.7% / 13.6% / 16.2%

Source: Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity

Walls acknowledged the 4.9 percent seasonally adjusted figure for April is two-tenths of a point above where it was this past summer. And it is just a tenth of a point below the same time a year ago.

Meanwhile the national unemployment rate dropped to 3.9 percent, the lowest point since 2000.

He said, however, the situation in Arizona is a statistical thing.

Put simply, the number of people in the workforce -- meaning they are working or actively looking -- is increasing faster than the national average, up 2.4 percent in the past year versus just 0.8 percent for the rest of the country.

Some of that, Walls said, is people moving to Arizona.

But he said the larger share involves people who had stopped looking for jobs -- people who were technically not counted as unemployed -- deciding that the time is now ripe to jump back in. And when they tell those who do the monthly survey of households they’re back in the hunt, they get added back into the ranks of the jobless.

At that point, it’s a simple math equation: Divide the now-larger number of people looking for work into the larger figure of everyone working or not, and you come up with an unemployment rate.

As to other indicators of the state of Arizona’s economy, there are several.

On one hand, the state added just 3,300 private sector jobs between March and April. That compares with a post-recession average for this time of year of 8,900.

But the year-over-year employment gain was 63,300, which is a relatively healthy 2.7 percent.

That includes an additional 8,600 jobs in manufacturing, computing out to a 6.3 percent increase over the same time last year. By contrast, Walls said national manufacturing employment is up only 2 percent.

And an 8.9 percent annual increase in construction employment in Arizona compares with 3.8 percent nationally.

Walls also said there is a decline in the number of people who are out looking but could find only part-time jobs.

“More people are finding full-time work than had previously found it,’’ he said. “Quality of life and productivity are improving with the decline of involuntary part-time workers.’’

But the demand by companies for workers has not translated into a big hike in what they’re willing to offer. Walls said the average private-sector wage increased just 40 cents an hour in the past year, to a current figure of $25.66.

Around the state there were no real sharp changes in employment levels with one notable exception. There was a relatively large increase in the number of people employed in construction in Mohave County, with a 3.3 percent jump last month and a 10.7 percent increase since last year.

That, however, has to be put into perspective: Even with the increase, total employment in that sector is still only 3,100 out of 51,600 people working in the county.