Private sector employment up 3 percent year-over-year in Arizona

PHOENIX — Continued talk of a trade war hasn’t dampened the state’s job growth, at least not yet.

New figures from the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity show the state did lose 4,900 private sector jobs in July. But that’s far less than typical for this time of the year, with the post-recession average showing Arizona shedding 8,200 jobs in July.

And, overall, private sector employment is up by 74,100 since the same time last year, good enough to show a 3.1 percent growth rate.

Doug Walls, the agency’s labor market information director, said a recession likely would first show up in sectors like construction. But construction employment here continues to increase, up 11 percent from last year.

While Walls does not have comparable July numbers from other states, he said the figures from June show that to be the second-highest growth rate in the nation.

Manufacturing employment is up 5.1 percent since last year, a figure that, again using June figures, is the fifth-highest in the nation.

Yet the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 4.9 percent for yet another month, up two-tenths of a point from a year ago. That compares with the United States average of 3.7 percent.

Walls said this is because as fast as Arizona creates jobs, people step up to take them, whether by moving here or, having been out of the job market, deciding to jump back in.

Other figures released Thursday show the state’s average hourly wage increased by 2 percent in the past year, compared with 2.7 percent nationally.

That puts the average Arizona wage at $26.22 versus $27.80 for the rest of the country.

In general, lower jobless rates force employers to pay more to attract qualified workers. And Arizona has traditionally had lower wages than the national average.

Looking at specific segments of the Arizona economy, there was strong growth in employment between June and July at nursing homes and other residential care facilities.

Construction employment also continues to recover from the beating it took during the recession, adding another 500 jobs last month and 17,500 in the past year. But at 177,200 workers it still has a long way to go to get back to its pre-recession peak of 244,300.

Retail trade showed some signs of life, adding 600 jobs in July. But that figure also includes continuing losses at stores selling clothing and accessories, which dropped another 100 workers in July and 700 in the past year, as customers move more to online purchases.

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