Gila County’s unemployment rate dropped sharply in April, moving the region within spitting distance of the state and national rates.
The county’s April rate dropped from 10.1 percent in March to 8.9 percent in April, the biggest one-month drop since the recession took hold.
By comparison, the national rate for the same period dropped from 8.2 to 8.1 percent and the Arizona rate dropped from 8.6 percent to 8.2 percent.
The detailed state and county rates generally come out about a month behind the overall national rate. Therefore, the recently released local rates remain shadowed by last week’s national rates for May — which rose from 8.1 percent to 8.2 percent on news of much weaker than expected job growth.
Nonetheless, the strong April numbers offer signs that both Gila County and Arizona are finally gaining on the national average after three years of frustrating lag.
Then again, the big jump in the Gila County rate stemmed in part from the number of people who gave up looking or moved away. The county’s civilian workforce actually declined by about 1 percent to 21,735.
The number of unemployed people in Gila County dropped 13 percent to 1,929. The figures also don’t include people who have taken part-time jobs, although they want full-time work.
Overall, the report offers some encouragement for Arizona. A year ago, the state’s unemployment rate stood at 9.6 percent, after peaking well above the national average.
The addition of 9,300 non-farm jobs statewide in April scored well above the historical average of 5,600 new jobs for the month.
The job growth remained especially strong in the private sector, since the government sector added just 1,400 jobs — right on track with the long-term average for the month. Most of the increases in government jobs came from local schools.
Job changes by sector included:
Business and Professional Services: up 3,600, nearly twice the long-term average.
Trade and Transportation: up 2,800 jobs, well above the long-term average.
Construction: up 1,900 jobs, well above the long-term average although the sector remains far below its pre-recession peak.
Financial Activity: up 1,100 jobs, nearly three times the long-term average.
Educational and Health Services: up 700 jobs, a bit below the long-term average.
Manufacturing: up 100 jobs, which was actually an improvement over the average loss of 400 jobs a month for the long-term average.
Leisure and Hospitality: down 1,100 jobs, far worse than the long-term average — but typical for the time period since the recession. That’s bad news for Rim Country, which remains heavily dependent on tourism with the construction industry still struggling.
Arizona has added 46,000 non-farm jobs to its economy in the past year, a roughly 2 percent gain.
For the year, professional and business services, educational and health services, construction and leisure and hospitality have all increased the jobs available by at least 7 percent.
Government has increased employment by just 4 percent.