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Arizona added almost 94,000 jobs in 2018 - shutdown effects still unknown

Arizona added an estimated 93,900 non-farm jobs last year, with every major metro getting a share, although 82 percent went to metro Phoenix and 10 percent to metro Tucson.

"To see this level of growth occurring throughout all of the (11 major) industries and all the metro areas is rather unique and does speak to the strength of the employment around the state and around the different industries within Arizona," said Doug Walls, research administrator for the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity.

But the federal shutdown, which was on its 27thday Thursday, could affect Arizona if it continues to drag on, though it is too early to see any effects yet.

Arizona had an estimated 56,200 federal workers in December, according to the Office of Economic Opportunity, and only gained 600 jobs  (1.1 percent) federal government jobs over the year. Metro Tucson had 12,900 and added 100.

The latest employment data doesn't include effects of the shutdown. Arizona and other states collect monthly employment data in two surveys of households and businesses during the week that includes the 12 of each month. The current shutdown didn't begin until Dec. 22.

The employment picture could be skewed for a while because in some cases workers who work without pay are counted as employed and in other cases they are not, Walls said.

And while federal employees who calculate national employment data, such as the unemployment rate, are currently funded, they may not be after a while if the shutdown continues.

The state numbers are estimates and will be revised in March when they are updated with more accurate federal numbers, assuming the statisticians are still employed.

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Jobs and Jobless 

Arizona's jobless rate rose to 4.8 percent in December from 4.7 percent in November, mainly because the state is attracting thousands of job seekers. The statewide labor force grew by 22,771 people in December and 106,408 over the year.

Walls said one trend recorded on a national level is that more people are voluntarily quitting their jobs to look for other positions.

Pima County's jobless rate rose to 4.8 percent in December from 4.2 percent in November.

Pima County added an estimated 9,400 new jobs over the year for a rate of 2.4 percent. That growth rate is less than metro Phoenix, 3.7 percent; Arizona, 3.3 percent; Lake Havasu-Kingman, 3.2 percent; Prescott, 2.8 percent, and Flagstaff, 2.5 percent.

Sectors adding the most workers in metro Tucson last year were education (non public) and health care, 2,600 (health care alone grew by 1,200); professional and business, 2,300; manufacturing, 1,600 and construction, 1,000.

And the sectors with the highest percentage growth were aerospace products and parts manufacturing, 8 percent; specialty construction trades, 10.7 percent; food and drinking places, 6.4 percent; transportation, warehousing and utilities, 6 percent, and information (data processing and warehouses), 5.7 percent.

And as the population ages, nursing homes and residential senior facilities in metro Tucson are hiring more. Though they only added 500 workers last year, their growth rate of 4.8 percent was the highest in health care.

 Statewide trends

Arizona last year surpassed national averages in most employment sectors, especially construction, where Arizona's jobs grew by 12.7 percent compared to only four percent for the nation. And while the nation as a whole lost almost a percentage point in information jobs, Arizona gained 10.2 percent.

Arizona's manufacturing growth of 4.2 percent also surpassed the national average of 2.4 percent.

The biggest downside is that Arizona's growth in natural resources and mining was only 1.7 percent, while the nation's was 8.4 percent. Those jobs grew by just 200 to 11,800 statewide last year and remained unchanged at 1,700 in metro Tucson.

Traditional retail jobs grew by just 1,100 workers over the year statewide, while jobs in transportation and Amazon type warehouses grew by almost six percent. Online sales continue to grow each quarter and now account for about a tenth of all retail sales in the U.S., Walls said.

"That (six percent) is some of the largest employment gains on record. This translates to a job gain of 5,300 jobs within transportation and warehousing," he said

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