Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 26, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Unemployment


  • Arizona Department of Commerce economist Dennis Doby has the latest unemployment figures.
Guests:
  • Dennis Doby - Economist, Arizona Department of Commerce


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
According to the Arizona Department of Commerce, Arizona's job losses slowed slightly in April. At the same time, the Education and health service sectors recorded their first over-the-year job losses since 1990. I spoke with Dennis Doby. Thank you for joining us on "Horizon."

Dennis Doby:
No problem.

Ted Simons:
Are you surprised that the jobless rate did not go up?

Dennis Doby:
I was surprised to see the unemployment rate to decline, but on a monthly basis it can be a little volatile. I expect the general trend to be upward through the rest of the year.

Ted Simons:
National numbers, national numbers go up, we don't. Any explanation besides volatility?

Dennis Doby:
Very difficult to explain. A lot of the states had the same patterns, basically unchanged or down a little bit. I don't have a good answer for that one.

Ted Simons:
A couple of ideas here for Arizona's numbers. Increasing number of folks is not looking for work anymore.

Dennis Doby:
The rate is measured by those actively looking for work, if they have come into the discouraged worker category that is one explanation. Another is people moving out of the state for greener pastures.

Ted Simons:
We talked in the past about this U rating, something that is higher, including more folks than just those actively searching for work.

Dennis Doby:
On the national level they put out what they call alternate measures of -- they don't call it an unemployment rate, it has a fancy rate. U-3 the official rate for the country and U-6 being the highest rate which pulls in the people who will be working part-time that want full-time. Those people not actively looking for work. And it counts them in a manner where they would show up as being unemployed and that rate is about twice as high as it is for the official rate. Now, on a monthly basis, the data is not available. But they're talking about putting that on a state level, at least on a semiannual basis. There is data for calendar 2008 on the B.L.S. web site.

Ted Simons:
You mentioned this. The idea that folks might be leaving Arizona. Are we talking seasonal workers or long-time residents? Who are we talking about here?

Dennis Doby:
Certainly the seasonal workers, agriculture work moves from area to area with the crops. Construction employment, we have construction levels that we have not seen since 1997. A lot of loss in that particular industry. A lot of it is probably not going to come back any time in the near future. States like Louisiana, where they're rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina that are showing gains in construction employment. It is possible that some people, if they don't want to leave the industry, have moved to other states for higher job possibilities.

Ted Simons:
Are there areas of the state that seem like they're getting hit harder than other areas?

Dennis Doby:
I think there are areas, greenly county, mining has gone down, price of copper has declined, those areas are being impacted by that particular industry more so than others. But the entire state is basically losing employment, and it shows in the numbers.

Ted Simons:
So, this isn't necessarily the start of something good, this last number. It could very well be an aberration.

Dennis Doby:
Well, on a monthly basis it is possible that one month does not a trend make. We might see another month or two of further declines over the year. It is nice to see at least for one month -- we still have an over the month loss of 1,600 jobs. Comparatively speaking March to April of 2008, it was 11,000 versus 1,600. We have seen the rate slow. Which is probably a good thing. We hope that trend continues.

Ted Simons:
The idea that some sectors get hit harder than others. Construction, rough shape, retail sales.

Dennis Doby:
Definitely, continued losses in construction, across the board, building, heavy, special trades’ construction. Retail trade is down. Increases in professional business services. Employment services was up over the month, temporary help agencies. Maybe that is an indication that some of the firms on a temporary basis are bringing people in. On a bad note, we have seen hospitals decline, education, health services by about 600. That is an industry where we have been showing growth. Leisure and hospitality --

Ted Simons:
Are you seeing the same kinds of numbers corresponding to what we have here?

Dennis Doby:
Not really. Our construction industry is being impacted by our housing lows. If you do a state-by-state comparison, in March we were ranked on over the year job growth 50th out of 50 states. In April, we shot up to 49th, passing Michigan by a tenth. So, we're having problems in Arizona that maybe some of the other states, especially in the middle agricultural, heavily resource states, middle of the country are not having.

Ted Simons:
Last question, what do you see for, let's say, the rest of the year? Do you see the jobless rate going on?

Dennis Doby:
I expect it to continue upward into the 8% range at least. Improvements in the job markets. We will have the over the month losses but the rate of loss we expect to slow.

Ted Simons:
Thank you for joining us.

Dennis Doby:
Happy to be here.

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