PHOENIX — Arizona's jobless rate jumped three-tenths of a point last month and now is a full percentage point higher than the national figure.

But the state economist who reports the figures said it's not time to panic — at least not yet.

Aruna Murthy said the jump to 8.3 percent, which occurred even as the national unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent, could simply be a statistical aberration. She said it is based on a survey of just 1,000 Arizonans.

And Murthy, director of economic analysis for the state Department of Administration, said other indicators, like the number of people making first-time applications for unemployment benefits, has not shown a similar spike.

"Nothing in the numbers tells me things are worsening,'' she said.

But Murthy acknowledged the gap between the state and federal jobless rate has increased now for several months. And that, she said, bears watching.

A separate survey of employers shows that most sectors continue to add jobs. But there are some notable exceptions, including the state's manufacturing industry, which not only shed 1,800 workers between July and August but remains 1,200 below it was a year earlier.

Health care employment, which never was hit by the recession, continues to increase.

And there also are more jobs at bars and restaurants.

"Although it's low paying, it has kept a lot of people employed,'' Murthy said.



Contact James Martinez at 573-4103 or