In a heartening sign that the recession may have bottomed out here, Rim Country’s unemployment rate in January dipped to 8.9 percent, below both the state and national averages.
Gila County as a whole remained at 11.8 percent, well above the state and national averages.
In Gila County, some 2,750 people continue to look for work out of a civilian work force of about 23,000.
If you correct the numbers for the normal seasonal shift in jobs, the Gila County rate would drop to 10.8 percent when the normal seasonal shifts in the labor market are taken into account. That compares to an adjusted rate of 9.2 percent in Arizona and 9.7 percent nationally.
The Department of Commerce did not release a seasonally adjusted rate for the Payson area, but it would presumably also be nearly one full percentage point lower than the unadjusted rate — or about 8 percent.
The unemployment rate in the north end of Gila County remains about 17 percent below the state average and 24 percent lower than Gila County as a whole, testament to the heavy impact of the recession in the mining-industry dependent south end of the county.
Rim Country also continues to fare better than many other rural areas of the state. Adjusting for seasonal trends would reduce the Gila County rate to about 10.8 percent and the north county rate to about 8 percent.
That compares to an adjusted 9.3 percent in Prescott, 9.9 percent in Kingman, and a stunning 27 percent in farm-dependent Yuma.
However, Flagstaff’s rate stands at just 7.9 percent, Phoenix at 8.5 percent and Tucson at 8.2 percent — all about the same as Rim Country’s adjusted tally.
Ironically, Arizona’s state budget remains among the most unhinged in the country, despite the state’s slightly lower than average unemployment rate. Economists say the disproportionate impact on state financing is the result of the state’s reliance on tax sources that react strongly to immediate economic activity like the sales tax, construction and real estate.
Nationally in January, the unemployment rate dropped 0.3 points, while Arizona remained essentially unchanged.
Statewide, the economy in January lost 2 percent of all jobs — about 50,000, which was in line with normal seasonal shifts. In part, that reflected a weaker-than-normal holiday retail season, according to the Arizona Department of Commerce research administration. Still, last January as the recession deepened the state lost 3.1 percent of its jobs.
A year ago, the state’s unemployment rate stood at 8 percent, compared to January’s 9.2 percent. Still, job losses slowed in Arizona in January for the fifth month in a row.