Home / agencies / State unemployment rate levels off – for now – as back-to-school jobs kick in

State unemployment rate levels off – for now – as back-to-school jobs kick in

Arizona’s unemployment rate remained fairly steady in August, dipping slightly to 9.1 percent as back-to-school jobs offset losses in retail and leisure and hospitality, the state Department of Commerce announced Sept. 17.

While the state gained 19,700 non-farm jobs in August, when government and education traditionally add jobs, it was the smallest gain for the month since 1999, the department said.

The unemployment rate stood at 9.2 percent in July.

“It certainly good that we didn’t lose jobs in a month that we would’ve expected to gain jobs, and we expect to gains jobs because of the educational season begining right now,” said Cheri Levenson, the department’s senior economist.

The biggest boost by far came in local and state education, which added 27,000 jobs.

“School is back in session. And that is a theme where we saw quite a bit of the bulk of seasonal job growth,” said Lisa Danka, the department’s assistant deputy director of strategic investment research.

Arizona lost 195,000 jobs from August 2008 through August, marking the 19th consecutive month of year-over-year losses.

Danka said she expects the unemployment rate to continue rising until the first or second quarter of next year.

Construction, which shed nearly 50,000 jobs dating to August 2008, was somewhat stable as specialty jobs such as plumbing, painting and electrical work saw an increase of 800 jobs, enough to offset the 700 lost in building construction.

Danka said the increase was most likely due to housing repairs and maintenance on foreclosed homes. She also said that stimulus money put toward weatherization of homes may be responsible for the increase.

Meanwhile, the retail trade shed 2,200 jobs during August and leisure and hospitality lost 1,400 jobs.

Marshall Vest, a professor of economics at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, the state remains in a recession. He expects unemployment to reach 10 percent in December before things improve early next year.

“Although I think the recession has ended nationwide, Arizona’s economy is still shrinking,” he said.

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