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Arizona's jobless rate drops slightly as bar, restaurant hirings pick up
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Arizona's jobless rate drops slightly as bar, restaurant hirings pick up

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Michael Ryan, a cashier, brought out a customer's order at Toro Loco Tacos y Burros, 7940 E. Broadway, in Tucson.

Arizona’s jobless rate dropped two-tenths of a point last month, to 6.7%, as the state continues to recover from the COVID-19 economic slump.

The private sector added 15,100 jobs between February and March, new figures from the state Office of Economic Opportunity show.

But that still leaves employment in non-government jobs nearly 65,000 below where it was a year earlier.

The willingness of people to go out is having an effect, with bars and restaurants hiring another 3,700 workers last month. In fact, the most recent figures for Arizona from OpenTable, which tracks seated diners from online, phone and walk-in reservations, are 6.6% higher than they were at the beginning of the pandemic.

Those numbers have been very volatile, noted Doug Walls, labor market information director for the Office of Economic Opportunity.

There also were some month-over-month gains in employment at amusement and theme parks as well as by sports teams and clubs as they, too, start to reopen.

But Arizona’s hotel and resort industry remains in the financial doldrums, picking up just 400 jobs last month. That leaves it nearly 36% below employment levels from a year ago.

Some of the industry’s recovery may be linked to when people are willing to travel again.

The Transportation Security Administration reported more than 1.56 aircraft boardings nationally as of April 11, the most recent figures available. While that is a world of difference from when it dropped to just 104,090 last April, it still falls far short of the nearly 2.2 million passengers recorded in March 2020, right as the pandemic hit hard.

Full recovery for the accommodation industry may take awhile, Walls said, noting the figures already were soft as far back as 2019.

One bright note, he said, is the number of jobs being created appears to be keeping pace with the number of people entering the workforce.

Arizona recorded a 1.8% growth in population last year. By contrast, the figure for the United States was just 0.4% amid falling birth rates and declining international migration.

Helping the situation here is that it appears to be a popular destination for people moving from elsewhere.

U-Haul reported earlier this year that, based on rentals of its trucks and trailers, Arizona was the No. 5 destination last year, behind Tennessee, Texas, Florida and Ohio.

Overall, Arizona has recovered 226,900 of the 331,500 jobs it lost since the pandemic recession began. That’s a recovery rate of 68% compared with 62% nationally.

On Twitter: @azcapmedia

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