State Capitol News
3:21 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

State Jobless Rate Decreases, but May Have Some Drawbacks

Phoenix, AZ – The new figures show employment up by 17,200 from March. That dropped the state's jobless rate two-tenths of a point, to 9.3 percent. Aruna Murthy of the Department of Commerce said that included a big jump in construction jobs. But Murthy said that's not because new homes, offices and warehouses are going up. Instead, she said it is because people are finally doing repairs they put off during the recession.

(It comes down to a point where you have to do something. The plumbing is broken down. You have avoided fixing it for a long period of time. At some point you have to spend some money in doing it. So that's where I think it's happening. All home repairs have been put on hold for a considerable period of time. Finally, it comes to a point where you have handle it or it won't work after that.)

The problem is that federal extended unemployment benefits for those out of work more than 79 weeks are available only if the unemployment rate is at least 10 percent higher than it was at the same time in either of the two prior years. The new numbers take Arizona below that figure, meaning the more than 15,000 people getting those extended benefits will lose them. There is an option for states to have a three-year look back instead of a two-year comparison. But lawmakers ended their session last month without making the change. And there appears to be little sentiment for a special session fix. Senate President Russell Pearce.

(I have natural concerns about paying people to sit at home. We have a terrible unemployment rate. I understand that. But, again, do we incentivize people not to go out and look for a job? I think there's a balance here you need to be careful of.)

To this point Gov. Jan Brewer, who could call a special session, has been noncommittal. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.