Arizona's jobless rate increases to 8 percent

Education layoffs higher, driving rise in unemployment
2013-07-19T00:00:00Z Arizona's jobless rate increases to 8 percentHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
July 19, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The state's jobless rate shot up two-tenths of a point last month, to 8.0 percent, driven largely by higher-than-expected seasonal layoffs in education.

Arizona lost 1,000 jobs in the private sector between May and June. But that's actually good news, compared with the 10-year average loss of 4,000 jobs for that time of year, said Aruna Murthy, director of economic analysis for the Arizona Department of Administration.

What skewed the numbers was the loss of 34,800 jobs in local education and another 11,100 jobs in state education. This sector of the economy loses jobs in June, as nonprofessional staff like cafeteria workers, custodians and bus drivers are laid off for the summer. But this year's figures are particularly high, Murthy said.

Overall, local education employment in June was 6,600 below its level a year earlier.

Arizona's jump in the employment rate comes as the national figure last month remained at 7.6 percent.

Overall the state's private sector economy was a mixed bag.

Employment in wholesale trade, such as warehouse workers, rose sharply, adding 3,100 jobs.

Retail employment also was up, by about 2,800, much of it due to hiring by car dealers, Murthy said. "People are buying cars," she said.

That trend also is reflected in sales tax data gathered by the state Department of Revenue. But Murthy cautioned there are indications interest rates are increasing, which could put monthly car payments out of range for some consumers.

At the other end of the spectrum, department stores and other general merchandise retailers are continuing to shed workers, dropping 400 between May and June. Employment in this sector is 1,100 below June 2012.

Murthy cited increases in Internet sales and changing technology as possible factors. Many stores have gone to self-checkout systems, with the customers scanning and bagging their own items. "So the number of people being hired in retail stores are fewer," she said.

Elsewhere in the economy, construction employment dropped by 500. But there are still signs of recovery, with the overall number of people working these jobs up 9,900 from a year ago.

Employment in health care also continues to increase, up 1,400 from May and 7,300 since last year.

But, not surprisingly for June, there were fewer people working in bars and restaurants than the month before. Still, overall employment is up 9,500 year over year.

AZ sector employment in 1,000s

Sector June 2013 Prerecession peak*

Total nonfarm 2,470.8 2,713.6

Manufacturing 157.3 187.4

Natural resources & mining 13.1 14.3

Construction 126.3 247.5

Trade, transportation, utilities 484.2 549.2

Information 39.3 55.6

Financial activities 183.3 187.2

Professional & business services 361.2 408.7

Private education & health services 369.3 323.2**

Leisure & hospitality 228.1 279.1

Other services 84.5 102.0

Government (including public education) 374.2 449.0

* Different sectors have different peak dates

** Prior peak in October 2008 before recession

Source: Arizona Administration Department

Unemployment rates

(Not seasonally adjusted unless otherwise stated)

Area June 2013 May 2013 June 2012

Arizona (seas adj) 8.0% 7.8% 8.4%

U.S. (seas adj) 7.6% 7.6% 8.2%

Cochise County 8.7% 7.8% 8.5%

Maricopa 7.1% 6.1% 7.5%

Pima 7.5% 6.3% 7.7%

Pinal 9.1% 7.8% 9.4%

Santa Cruz 17.5% 15.4% 16.2%

Source: Arizona Administration Department

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