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Unemployment

Construction employment in Arizona was back on the map in November.

Doug Walls, research administrator for the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity, said the increase of 1,000 jobs was “an atypical change for November.” Many of those new jobs, he said, were in specialty trades and heavy or civil engineering.

Over the year, construction employment has improved 6.2 percent, a gain of 8,300 jobs and the largest growth rate among all job sectors. In Pinal County, construction employment reached a new high point for 2017 in November.

Statewide, building permits for new single-family homes are back to pre-recession levels. Maricopa’s home-building permits for November totaled 98, the highest November total since the depths of the recession. In November 2014, the total was as low as six.

The construction employment numbers in Arizona also benefited from highway construction projects.

Overall, the state’s unemployment rate dropped from 4.5 percent in October to 4.3 percent in November. Pinal County’s unemployment went the opposite direction, increasing from 4.3 to 4.4 percent. Nationwide, the unemployment rate stayed at 4.1 percent.

Pinal’s workforce increased by 1,100 in November while the number of employed increased by just 993 people.

Service-providing industries continue to be the biggest employers in the state, employing 2.5 million. The state’s total labor force is 3.2 million.

Arizona netted 29,500 new jobs during the month. Most of the state’s job growth was in the Valley of the Sun. Tucson and Flagstaff, on the other hand, posted concerning numbers. Tucson had employment shrinking in seven of 10 sectors over the year. More immediately, over the month of November, Flagstaff saw all its sectors lose employment.

Walls said the state office is “not able to see the details” of the cause.

Employment in the sector of trade, transportation and utilities rose 2.9 percent during the month, the biggest percentage gain during the 30 days. The area with the next largest growth rate was professional and business services at 4.7 percent.

The information sector was flat during the month and saw a 12-month loss of 5.6 percent. Walls said the state was seeing job losses in data processing all year.



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Pinal County picked up nearly 1,000 jobs in November, dropping its unemployment rate to 4.9 percent. That is its lowest rate of 2016.

A year ago, that number was 6 percent.

According to numbers released Thursday by the Office of Economic Opportunity, the county went from being slightly above the state’s jobless rate in October to being slightly below it. The state rate is 5 percent, down from 5.9 a year ago.

The national unemployment rate is 4.6 percent.

Maricopa County has the lowest unemployment rate in Arizona at 4.1 percent. Yuma County has the highest at 16.7 percent.

Pinal County residents gained 500 jobs in private service-providing fields, 325 in trade, transportation and utilities (TTU), 150 in leisure and hospitality, 100 in government, 50 in educational and health services, 25 in information and 25 in unspecified other services.

Doug Walls, research administrator, said the state’s gain of 16,800 nonfarm jobs during the month was less than post-recession average. From 2010 to 2015 that monthly average has been over 28,000 jobs. It’s also below the 10-year average of 21,500 jobs.

Statewide, TTU was the sector with the biggest job growth during the month with 9,800 jobs.

Walls also pointed out the estimate of 28,000 jobs gained in October has since been revised down to 24,700.

Year-to-year, Arizona has seen 1.1 percent growth in jobs. The biggest growth has been in educational and health services.

Arizona’s total labor force in November was 3.25 million people in the job market, up from 3.16 million in November 2015.

Pinal County’s unemployment dropped more than 1 percent over the last year.

Data released Thursday by the Arizona Department of Administration show January’s jobless rate was 5.6 percent. That number a year ago was 7 percent.

Unemployment was 5.7 percent in December.

In 2015, the lowest jobless rate recorded for the county was in May, and also 5.6 percent. Back then, the labor force was 155,526. In January, there were 160,052 people in the county’s labor force.

Tim Kanavel, manager of Economic Development for Pinal County, said employers are moving to Pinal County, including a new casino in Dudleyville. His department is targeting job sectors that include aerospace and defense, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, natural resources and health services.

“It’s important we have the workforce for the types of businesses we’re bringing in,” he told the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce at its monthly breakfast Thursday.

During 2015, the city of Maricopa’s unemployment fell from 6.0 in January to 5.3 percent in December. Casa Grande saw more dramatic shifts, starting with 6.8 percent and climbing as high as 7.5 percent before dropping to 5.4 – coinciding with the opening of Tractor Supply Company.

The state’s unemployment dropped from 5.9 percent in December to 5.6 percent in January.

Arizona Department of Administration research administrator Doug Walls said the loss of 48,600 jobs was typical in Arizona after the holidays. In the post-recessionary years of 2010-15, he said, “the average job losses in January were 51,300.”

He said the biggest losses were in trade, transportation and utilities, which dropped more than 18,000 jobs. The only job sector posting gains for the month was in financial activities, which picked up 200.

For the year, Walls said, Arizona showed job growth of 3 percent. Nine of 11 jobs sectors showed gains overall. The biggest growth occurred in education and health services with 19,700 jobs.

Professional and businesses services gained 17,300 jobs since last January. Despite the predictable January losses, trade, transportation and utilities picked up 13,900 jobs year-to-year.

Pinal County's unemployment rate in January matched the state's.
Pinal County’s unemployment rate (orange line) in January matched the state’s (green line).