Income gaps between rich and poor.
The unemployment rate in Gila County inched upward in October to 9.4 percent, counter to the trend statewide.
By contrast, the statewide unemployment rate continued its frustratingly slow decline, dropping from 8.2 percent in September to 8.1 percent in October.
The increased jobless rate in Gila County instead followed the national trend. Nationally, unemployment in rate rose from 7.8 in September to 7.9 in October.
The latest numbers show Gila County’s job picture has remained frozen for almost a year. Back in January, the county’s total civilian labor force amounted to 21,882 workers. The 2,295 people looking for jobs gave the county a 10.5 percent unemployment rate, well above the national average.
In October, the county had 21,770 workers — a decline from January’s total. However, enough people had moved or quit looking for work that the number of people registered as unemployed had dropped to 1,983 — or 8.9 percent of the work force.
The county’s weak job picture stemmed from continued troubles in the mining industry in south county and the lingering problems in the leisure and hospitality and construction industries, long the mainstay of the economy in the north county.
Statewide, the October jobless numbers revealed continued problems for the mainstay leisure and hospitality sector.
Statewide in October, restaurants, bars, hotels and other employers in that sector normally add about 2,000 jobs. But this October, employment in the sector dropped by 500, according to figures just released by the Arizona Department of Administration. However, the tourism sector has still gained 4,400 jobs statewide for the year — an increase of about 1.7 percent.
Gila County continued to lag behind Maricopa County, which set the pace for the state with a 6.8 percent rate — up from 6.7 percent in September.
Gila County’s 9.4 percent rate left it in the middle of the pack when compared to other struggling rural counties throughout the state.
Among those other rural counties, Graham County had 8.7 percent, tiny Greenlee County had an enviable 6.5 percent, Yavapai 8.5 percent and Yuma a still-awful 30 percent.
Statewide, most employment sectors made modest gains in October.
Construction continued its painstakingly slow recovery, adding 2,100 jobs statewide in October. Normally, construction doesn’t add any jobs at all in October. For the full year, construction has added 3,600 jobs.
Trade, transportation and utilities recorded the biggest gains for the month — an increase of 4,900. The next biggest gains came in retail trade (4,200).
Professional and business services added 2,300 jobs, a bit below the long-term average in that sector for the month.
Government hiring added about 2,400 jobs, most in local government — which added 2,300 jobs. The state government added 1,000 jobs, while federal hiring declined by 800.