Arizona Jobless Rate Drops Sharply, But Still at Twice Pre-COVID Levels

Article originally posted on HERE on June 25, 2020

WASHINGTON – Arizona posted one of the sharpest unemployment drops in the country in May, falling from a historic high of 13.4% in April to 8.9% last month, according to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But that drop still left May’s unemployment rate for the state at the highest point in almost nine years and was twice the jobless rate that Arizona posted at the beginning of year, before the COVID-19 pandemic hammered the economy.

The biggest job gains came in hotel and food services jobs, according to data from the Economic and Business Research Center at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. It said jobs in those categories rose from 178,500 in April to 216,900 in May.

“Huge difference because of usual suspects reopening, which include bars, restaurants, retail, and more,” said Elliott Pollack, economist and CEO of Elliott D. Pollack and Co., an economic and real estate consulting firm in Scottsdale.

University of Arizona economist George Hammond said the numbers reflect a bounce back from the stay-at-home order that was lifted in Arizona in May. But while the numbers are encouraging, he said the state’s economy still has a long way to go before it gets back to pre-coronavirus vitality.

“As we look forward, it will be a process of gradual improvement,” Hammond said.

The Arizona numbers, released Friday, mirrored national jobless statistics that were released early this month. The BLS reported that the national unemployment rate fell from 14.7% in April to 13.3% in May, bucking economists’ fears of an increase and leading President Donald Trump to tout the gain of almost 3 million jobs.

Arizona did particularly well in the May numbers report. Just four states – Mississippi, Kentucky, Indiana and Nevada – experienced sharper declines, and Nevada was coming off a bruising 30.1% rate to 25.3%. Arizona also posted the fifth-lowest jobless rate among states for the month, according to the BLS data.

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