Statistics for the first five months of 2006 reveal that the Town of Payson has a lower unemployment rate than the county average but is just above the state average. Overall, Gila County has a 5.9 percent unemployment rate. Unemployment in the state is 4.6 percent while Payson is currently at 4.7 percent. According to the numbers, the Town of Payson has 5,794 people able to work. Of those, 5,571 are employed.
The smaller communities that are in close proximity to Payson had much lower unemployment numbers when looking at percentages.
The unemployment figure for Pine through May was 3.2 percent, while Strawberry's unemployment percentage stood at 2.8 percent. Tonto Basin's unemployment percentage of 2.7 percent was the lowest in the county, though its labor base was only 262 people with 255 employed.
Barbara Ganz, director of the Payson Regional Economic Center, said the figures reflect those who can't find work as well as those who do not want to work.
"Payson has its difficulties in people not being skilled in the positions we do have," she said.
Ganz also said there are people in the community that she calls underemployed.
Ganz said the state calculates its unemployment figures on the number of people not working between the ages of 18 and 64, which is not a true gauge for the Town of Payson.
"We have a group of early retirees who are (younger) than 64," she said. "Payson has a large number that have retired at a young age, and are not 65."
According to 2005 statistics from the Arizona Prospector, more residents are employed by restaurants in Payson than any other profession. Restaurants employ 666 workers. The next highest number is the 530 people employed by health care. Government, according to statistics, is the third biggest employer with 436 workers. Rounding out the top five was general merchandise stores with 371 workers and the primary and secondary education work force that employs 363 people.