The state’s jobless rate dropped two-tenths of a percent last month. But, Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer reports that's only part of the picture.
On paper, the seasonally adjusted rate slid to 7.6 percent. There were strong showings in retail trade employment as Christmas shopping was stronger than prior years. But, the report by the state Department of Administration also shows there are nearly 35,000 fewer people in the workforce than a year ago. Aruna Murthy, the agency’s director of economic analysis, said some of that could be more people being able to afford to retire, now that the stock market — and the value of their 401k retirement accounts — has recovered. But, she said clearly the largest share is people who have left the workforce. And, most of those are discouraged workers who have stopped looking, versus those who might have left the state.
“There are jobs. But this has been anemic growth. Two-percent growth in employment can only take in so many people,” Murthy said.
Aside from growth in retail employment, there were other sectors of the economy that showed growth last month. Companies involved in financial activities added 2,200 jobs. But on the other side of the equation, employment at hotels and motels dropped by about 400. Murthy said that could be fallout from the October federal budget stalemate that shut down national parks. She said people planning ahead for December vacations, unsure of what might happen, simply decided to change their plans.