PHOENIX — The state’s jobless rate dropped two-tenths of a point last month but there are indications of problems remaining for the Arizona economy.
That 7.3 percent seasonally adjusted rate compares with a 6.7 percent nationwide figure. The state added 17,300 jobs between January and February.
But that means a year-over-year job growth of just 1.9 percent, said Aruna Murthy, director of economic analysis for the state Administration Department. That rate needs to pick up if the state is to achieve the nearly 2.4 percent increase in employment she predicted for this year just five months ago.
There are some bright spots.
The state’s leisure and hospitality industry —everything from bars and restaurants to hotels — added a whopping 9,000 jobs in just the last month. That’s not only higher than the typical 5,100 gain for February but also the highest one-month gain in more than two decades.
What could be helping are not only the normal “snowbird’’ contingent and conventions but perhaps vacation decisions by Americans hit hard by this winter’s harsh weather known as the polar vortex.
But the retail trade shed 5,600 jobs in February, far more than average. And Murthy also saw signs of softening specifically in employment of people who sell vehicles and parts.
She also fears bleaker times ahead for Arizona manufacturing.
About one out of every six jobs in that sector is in the aerospace industry, mostly linked to defense spending. Those companies lost 100 jobs last month and are now 1,400 below where they were a year ago.
National defense spending continues to shrink, Murthy noted.