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Arizona’s jobless rate decreases, but fewer people are working

unemployment-620The state’s jobless rate slid a bit in January from December, but not because more people were working.

In fact, the reverse is true.

New figures March 13 from the state Department of Administration showed 2.53 million Arizonans with jobs in January. That’s 42,200 less than the month before.

But the layoffs that normally happen after the busy Christmas season were not as large as some other years. The result was that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a point, to 7.5 percent.

Aruna Murthy, the agency’s director of economic analysis, said the numbers could be seen as a positive sign for the economy — maybe.

“January is typically a month of losses,” she said. What may be happening, she said, is that some companies that added staff for the holidays have decided to keep some of them on board in anticipation that business will pick up in the new year.

She also pointed out, though, that seasonal hiring was not as great this year as it was prior to the recession, particularly by retailers. So Murthy said it stands to reason that post-Christmas layoffs would not be as great as prior years.

And if that’s not enough to leave economists wondering, Murthy said there’s a third possible explanation. She said the monthly survey her agency does of companies may not have picked up all the layoffs that actually took place.

Overall, though, the state is in better condition than a year ago when the jobless rate was 8 percent. And year-over-year employment is up by 55,400, a 2.2 percent increase.

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