Arizona lost 800 private sector jobs last month as the state continues to find its financial footing to finally recover from the recession.
New figures from the state Department of Administration put the May jobless rate at 6.8 percent. That’s down a tenth of a point from April. That drop could occur even as employers were shedding jobs because, on a seasonally adjusted basis, fewer people were looking for work.
But Aruna Murthy, the agency’s director of economic analysis, said the small drop in the rate is hardly a sign of a healthy Arizona economy.
She prefers to look at what employers are telling her staff about their hiring practices. And right now the state is adding private sector jobs at an annual rate of just 2 percent.
In fact, she said only two sectors of the state’s economy seem to be performing well: health care and financial services. Pretty much everything else, Murthy said, has been disappointing.
Some of the figures for last month are not surprising. For example, the state’s leisure and hospitality industry shed 1,500 jobs between April and May.
“Nobody likes coming to Arizona when the temperature is 110,” she said.
But Murthy noted that there were month-over-month job losses in the construction industry. That, she said, was surprising, as May has been a month for job growth in Arizona every year since the end of the recession.
Some of that lag in construction, she suggested, could be a bit of an echo effect of the rest of the economy.
“People are struggling,” she said. “I’ve been reading stories recently that young kids are unable to get out of their family homes. They’re unable to find a full-time job or they’re holding multiple jobs just to pay their bills.”