Gila Jobless Rate Remains High At 11%

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Gila County’s unemployment rate edged upward to 11 percent in July, well above the state and national averages. The rate would drop to 10.7 percent if adjusted for normal seasonal job losses.

A total of 21,000 Gila County residents had jobs in July. Of those, 24 percent worked for government, 55 percent worked in “service providing” jobs and only 11 percent actually make anything — or “goods producing” jobs.

Arizona Department of Commerce analysts said that because of the stubbornly high unemployment rate, it could take the state six years to get back to the 300,000 jobs it lost during the recession. Total nonfarm jobs in the state in July stood at nearly 3 million.

The Arizona Department of Commerce did not provide a July breakdown on the unemployment rate in northern Gila County, but it generally runs about 3 percentage points below the countywide rate. Overall, the jobless rate in Gila County is distorted by nearly 50 percent jobless rates on the three Indian reservations in the region.

In June, Payson had an 8.1 percent unemployment rate, Pine 5.4 percent, Strawberry 5 percent and Tonto Basin 4.8 percent. Rates in other county cities in June included Globe 8.8 percent, Hayden 15.7 percent, Miami 13.2 percent and San Carlos 45 percent.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.6 percent for the third month in a row — as did the national rate of 9.5 percent.

The rates varied throughout the state, from 7.9 percent in the Flagstaff area to 23 percent in Yuma.

Gila County’s 10.7 percent seasonal rate compares to 12.5 percent in Graham County, 9.3 percent in Greenlee, 14.5 in Navajo, 8.6 in Maricopa and 7.9 percent in Coconino.

The jobless report offered only a few glimmers of encouragement. The state’s economy normally loses jobs in July, mostly as a result of school letting out. But the seasonal loss was smaller than normal in both private and government sectors.

The biggest losses in July were reported in education and tourism, both key sectors for employment in the Rim Country. Public education employment dropped 8.5 percent and leisure and hospitality employment dropped 2.4 percent.

All told, government lost 12,700 Arizona jobs, including 900 federal, 1,300 state and 10,500 local government — including schools.

Offsetting those losses were gains in health services, professional and business services, service industries generally, trade, mining, natural resources and financial services.

Two of the key job producing industries in Rim Country remained troubled — tourism and construction.

The leisure and hospitality sector lost 6,200 jobs in July, although the sector actually gained 3,100 jobs for the year.

Construction remained stalled as well, losing 300 jobs in July on top of the 900 lost in June. The figures indicated renewed weakness for one of the most troubled sectors — since construction had added jobs each month for the first three months of the year, only to once again falter.

Payson’s building department has issued fewer than 30 permits in the past 12 months, compared to a monthly average of more than 250 during the boom years. Since July of last year, the construction sector has declined a total of 11 percent — a loss of 14,000 jobs statewide. Most of those job losses came in “speciality trade.”

Payson’s 17,000 residents make it the largest town in a sprawling rural county. Globe comes next with 8,000, followed by Star Valley with 2,164 and then Hayden with 1,891.

The county’s population is 78 percent white, 13 percent Native American and 17 percent Hispanic. About 21 percent of the county’s population is under 14 and about 20 percent are older than 65.

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