State Jobless Rate Drops To 9.5 Percent

Arizona reports biggest October job gain since 2004, but Gila County remains stuck at 11 percent

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Arizona’s economy gained more jobs in October than any other month in the last six years, according to figures released Thursday by the Arizona Department of Commerce.

The state’s unemployment rate dropped from 9.7 percent in September to 9.5 percent in October, while the national rate remained unchanged at 9.6 percent.

The figure made Arizona 18th among the states in job growth, compared to 36th just three months ago.

Gila County’s rate declined about half as much as the statewide rate and remained stubbornly high at 11 percent.

However, the October figures didn’t divide Northern and Southern Gila County. Historically, the rate in Northern Gila County is a couple of percentage points below the county-wide average, which in Southern Gila County is dominated by the troubled mining sector and the Apache Reservation with unemployment rates often near 50 percent.

Gila County’s 11-percent unemployment rate compares to 8.5 percent in Coconino County, 15.4 percent in Navajo County, 11.3 percent in Greenlee County and 13.6 percent in Graham County.

The statewide addition of 27,400 jobs touched almost every sector, including the long-suffering construction industry — which added 5,000 jobs.

Non-farm private jobs jumped a heartening 1.1 percent, with much smaller gains for farming and government employment.

Educational and health service jobs scored the largest gain, with about 13,400 jobs added compared to last year at the same time.

In fact, only the communications sector lost jobs in October out of the 11 sectors the Department of Commerce tracks.

The state’s economy has added jobs steadily for the past three months. The Flagstaff area had the lowest jobless rate in the state, at 8.4 percent, followed closely by Tucson at 8.6 percent and the Phoenix metro area at 8.8 percent.

Joblessness remained significantly higher in rural areas of the state, including a devastating 22 percent in Yuma, 9.9 percent in Prescott and 10.8 percent in the Kingman area.

Areas vital to the Rim Country’s economy fared relatively well.

Statewide, leisure and hospitality gained 3,300 jobs, which represents the mainstay of the Rim Country’s economy.

Moreover, the construction industry finally showed some signs of life. The 4.4 percent rise in construction jobs represented the single biggest monthly gain since April of 2005. For the year, construction added 1,700 jobs — the first year-to-year gain since 2006.

Three years ago, the state’s unemployment rate stood at 4 percent. It rose explosively to about 9.5 percent by October of 2008 and has remained stuck there for the past two years.

Gila County has generally trailed behind the state’s rate by one or two percent through the long downturn.

The October figures show Gila County with 20,525 people with jobs and 2,550 unemployed.

About 24 percent of the workers in Gila County have government jobs.

About 55 percent work in “service-providing” jobs.

Only about 20 percent have what are considered “goods producing” jobs.

The total number of workers in Gila County has climbed back up to almost exactly the same total as January of this year. The number of workers dipped to 19,975 in March, climbed to 20,900 in August and has been drifting downward for the past two months, which is normal as the summer tourist season winds down.

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