State's Unemployment Rate Remains Steady

Jan 19, 2012

The state's unemployment rate remained steady last month amid lackluster job growth in the private sector. Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer explains.

Private employers added only 4,100 jobs in December. That less than half of what usually occurs this time of the year. Of note is that retail employment remained flat. But Aruna Murthy of the state Department of Administration said this could simply be because stores started promoting Christmas specials even before Halloween, meaning they already hired all the seasonal help they needed long before December. Still, there were some bright spots, with employment up at bars and restaurants.

(It's a holiday season. It's a celebratory occasion. People do go out and eat and spend. This is something they have to spend on and continue to do that. With the economy slightly improving they get a little bit more confidence in going out and eating out.)

But Murthy cautioned that the state's recovery remains slow.

"You have to keep this in mind that this recession, the volume of people who have lost jobs has been way, way higher than any of the past recessions," Murthy said.

That's also the analysis of economist Elliott Pollack who spoke to a separate meeting of the state's Finance Advisory Committee. He compared the economy to someone who had been in the hospital.

"The patient is out of intensive care, but he's not running any marathons," said Murthy. "He's on a walker. Still slow recovery. But just because you're recovering doesn't mean you're healthy again. And that's really the situation with Arizona."