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Arizona jobless rate inches up

Arizona jobless rate inches upArizona’s economy might be recovering, but the job market didn’t quite keep pace — or at least not last month.

The employment rate inched up to 7.9 percent in December, although state economists said the numbers don’t quite add up. November’s jobless rate was 7.8 percent.

In contrast, the revised U.S. unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7.8 percent.

Overall, Arizona added only 3,200 jobs in December.

While the private sector gained 4,900 jobs, they were offset by in the government sector.

Additionally, the December gains in the private sector were only roughly half of the average growth.

State economists said the labor force grew but the number of new jobs didn’t keep pace with that growth, and those factors might have contributed to the drag in the job market.

The report could have some impact on legislators’ view of the economy. Many are wary of increasing the state’s spending levels, pointing to Arizona’s sluggish economy as a reason for concern.

The governor is expected to disclose the details of her budget plan on Friday.

The long-trend, however, remains encouraging, according to Aruna Murthy, director of economic analysis at the Arizona Department of Administration.

Over the year, the state gained 63,900 jobs.

The monthly average job growth for 2012 is 2.1 percent, which was her office’s forecast.

Additionally, the jobless rate has been in a downward trend since the highs during the recession.

“I always want more jobs,” Murtha told reporters. “Having only seen half of the historic numbers that I typically see, I would say that I would have expected better.”

But what’s puzzling is the numbers from retail trade, which shed 1,300 jobs and dragged down the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector, the economist said.

This job loss is also against the historical trend.

Murtha also noted that all the reported sectors within retail trade showed job gains, adding the data is a bit of confusing and might be revised.

“I don’t know what’s going on here,” she said. “If it was left to my judgment call, I would think it’s an aberration.”

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