Arizona’s jobless rate shot up six-tenths of a point between June and July and now stands at 10.6%.
The increase announced Thursday now puts the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate higher than the federal figure of 10.2% for July. In fact, the national rate actually declined last month even as Arizona was shedding more jobs.
So what happened here?
Doug Walls, director of research administration for the state Office of Economic Opportunity, said a lot of it is timing.
The state measures the rate for each month with surveys of employers and residents conducted during what usually is the second week of the month. And between the June surveys and the one done in July, the number of Arizonans who contracted COVID-19 increased by 56%.
And there’s something else that occurred in the interim.
In late June, faced with the explosion of new cases, Gov. Doug Ducey conceded he had made a mistake the prior month in ending his stay-at-home order and allowing most businesses to reopen. So he issued a new order shuttering bars, movie theaters, gyms, fitness centers and splash parks and put some new restrictions on others.
It had an effect — and not just in slowing the increase in COVID-19 cases.
The state’s leisure and hospitality industry, already suffering from prior closures and the unwillingness of many people to go out and travel, got hit again. Hard.
Bars and restaurants shed another 8,900 jobs in July, with another 4,600 in employment at hotels and motels. And there also were losses at fitness centers and theme parks.
Overall employment losses in this sector since July 2019 now stand at 60,600. That means nearly one job out of five in this industry have been lost in the past year.
And the job losses in leisure and hospitality make up 58% of all the jobs that have disappeared in Arizona in the last year.
But Walls said that despite the increase in the unemployment rate in Arizona last month while the national rate dropped, things are not that bad here.
He came up with a chart of showing the change in the number of people working both in Arizona and nationally since February, before the pandemic hit. Overall, he said, total job losses here are 5.2% in that period versus 8.4% nationwide.
Beyond the big losses in the leisure and hospitality sector, there were month-over-month declines in employment in manufacturing, construction and financial activities.
The state’s retail trade sector showed some signs of life, picking up 1,100 jobs between June and July. But overall employment levels here are still 500 below where they were a year ago.
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