The state's jobless rate jumped a bit last month. But that may hide some of the good news.
On paper, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July was 8.3 percent. And the number of people working last month was less than in June. But economist Aruna Murthy of the state Department of Administration said Arizona always loses jobs in July. More to the point, the losses this year were only half as much as what usually happens. What also is significant is this is the fifth month in a row where the year-over-year growth in private sector employment is higher than 2 percent.
Retail sales last month were $4.05 billion. On paper, that's $100 million less than the same month a year earlier. But the Department of Revenue reports that the June 2011 figures were skewed to the tune of about $280 million because of how certain sales were classified. When that figure is backed out, the year-over-year growth is about 4.5 percent. Economist Dennis Hoffman of Arizona State University said that's not bad.
Here's a turnaround worth noting: The housing market in Phoenix is emerging from a historic slumber. Foreclosures are down, and new home sales are re-energizing the market -- up 35 percent from a year ago.
Let's get down to street level, shall we? How 'bout Ravenswood Drive near Gilbert's eastern edge.
Ken Peterson is a Vice President for Shea Homes. We're in a development called Spaces. And listen to this, air compressors and nail guns all around us.
The official report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis puts per capita personal income in Arizona last year at $35,875. That's a 3.9 percent increase over the prior year. But that was not enough to keep pace with the rest of the nation were income went up 4.3 percent. The result is that Arizona remains in 40th place. Economist Tom Rex of Arizona State University said the numbers were to be expected.
"We're very, very cyclical in Arizona," said Rex. "I'm not surprised that we'd have another pretty mediocre year. Things will turn here over the next couple of years."
The data from the state Department of Revenue shows retail sales in January of $3.7 billion. That's nearly 5.4 percent higher than the same time last year -- and more than 16 percent above two years ago. Economist Dennis Hoffman of Arizona State University called that a nice solid month of performance. But Hoffman said there is reason to believe that this year-over-year growth may not continue.
"The headwind right now is $4 gas," said Hoffman. "And that is really going to be the proof in the pudding here."