Arizona jobless rate ticked up to a tenth of a point in December as companies shed employees

PHOENIX — New figures from the Office of Economic Opportunity put the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate at 4.8 percent. That is the result, at least in part, of private sector employment dropping by about 1,900 jobs.

And the new figure is also a tenth of a point higher than where it was a year ago.

But Doug Walls, the agency’s research administrator, said there’s another reason for the increase in the jobless rate.

He said lots more people are looking for jobs, with the number of people either working or looking for work up by nearly 22,800 over November levels. And he said that, on an annual basis, the labor force in Arizona is up by 3.2 percent, versus 1.6 percent for the rest of the country.

Within the overall numbers, retail employment was down by 3,500 from November. Some of this, Walls said, had to do with the fact that stores did not need to hire as many people in December because they had already ramped up employment the prior month.

But he acknowledged that this also reflects the increasing role of e-commerce and people choosing to make their purchases online.

A separate report released Thursday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the wages paid to Arizonans continue to lag behind the rest of the country.

Figures for the second quarter of 2018, the most recent numbers available, put the average weekly wage in Arizona at $973. That compares with $1,055 nationally.

In fact, only Greenlee County beat the national average, at $1,339, propelled by higher paying jobs in mining.

Walls said the below-average wages for the state are not unexpected, saying Arizona employers have been able to pay less because of a lower cost of living here, especially in rural areas.

But the trend also suggests the state is not making any progress at improving the situation, with a 3.3 percent year-over-year increase in average weekly wages while the national figure was up 3.4 percent.


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