The state’s jobless rate dropped by two-tenths of a point last month. But, Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer reports the economic outlook is far more mixed.
The new figures set the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate at 7.3 percent. And, the state did add more than 17,000 jobs since January. But, economist Aruna Murthy of the Department of Administration pointed out that retail trade shed 5,600 jobs in February, more than typically happens at this time of the year. Then there’s Arizona’s manufacturing industry. About one out of every six jobs in that sector is in aerospace, mostly linked to defense spending. Those companies lost 100 jobs last month and are now 1,400 below where they were a year ago.
“The defense funding, at least at the national level, is shrinking. And if this trend continues, and if peace happens and they don’t need more defense-related contracts, I don’t see it headed upwards unless something nationally changes,” Murthy said.
There are some bright spots. The state’s leisure and hospitality industry — everything from bars and restaurants to hotels — added a whopping 9,000 jobs in just the last month. That’s not only higher than the typical gain for February, but also the highest one-month jump in more than two decades.
What could be helping are not only the normal “snowbird” contingent and conventions, but perhaps some almost spur-of-the-moment decisions by those hit hard by the polar vortex that there has to be some better place to spend some time.