Arizona’s jobless rate is back on the upswing.
New figures from the state Office of Economic Opportunity put the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for June at 10.0%. That’s up a full point from a month earlier.
The national jobless rate dropped from 13.3% in May to 11.1% in June, still higher than in Arizona.
Doug Walls, the agency’s research administrator, said there are other indications that Arizona is weathering the coronavirus-induced recession better than much of the rest of the country.
He said total nonfarm employment in Arizona last month is at 95% of what it was in February, before the pandemic and the resultant layoffs, business closures and restrictions on travel knocked a hole in the economy. By contrast, employment nationally is at just 90% of February levels.
“You can see pretty much in every single industry category Arizona has higher percentages of employment,” Walls said. “And so, we just didn’t fall as far.”
There is one big asterisk on all this: The Bureau of Labor Statistics acknowledges that its methodology of computing who is employed and who is not has been calculating some people as working when they actually have been laid off or furloughed.
Walls said he does not yet have the differential for Arizona for June. But in May, making those adjustments moved the 9.0% rate — which is still the official rate — up to an unofficial 11.0%.
There are other signs of continued weakness.
The number of initial claims for regular unemployment benefits last week increased by 4,134 to 33,280. The Department of Economic Security reports there are now 330,695 Arizonans receiving these payments.
On top of that, another 627,306 people are collecting separate Pandemic Unemployment Assistance payments. These are generally available to those who do not qualify for regular benefits, including those without sufficient work history and the self-employed.
And Walls also said that the size of the labor force — those employed and those who say they have been looking for work in the past 30 days — actually declined in Arizona by more than 55,500. At least part of that could be attributed to those who, unable to find work, simply stopped looking.
Overall, the number of people working in the private sector in June was slightly more than 2.4 million, close to 80,000 less than the same time last year.
Looking closer at the numbers, while retail trade employment increased last month it is still below where it was a year ago.
But wholesale trade and warehousing is up, much of that likely to do with the shift of consumers to online purchases, which likely has been accelerated by people choosing to order items for delivery because of COVID-19 instead of going out.
Employment in the leisure and hospitality sector is showing signs of life, with 18,300 jobs added in June by restaurants and bars.
That, however, could take a hit when the July numbers are reported following the decision by Gov. Doug Ducey to tighten restrictions on the number of in-house diners at restaurants and shut down bars entirely.
And under the category of arts, entertainment and recreation, Ducey’s order shuttered gyms and fitness clubs which also may be reflected when the July numbers are released in August.
On Twitter: @azcapmedia
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