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Arizona added 1,000 manufacturing jobs over the past month

Arizona continues to surpass the nation in adding manufacturing jobs, with an increase of 9,000 positions over the past year and 1,000 over the past month, the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity said Thursday.

The monthly change is especially dramatic because the state typically gains no manufacturing jobs in March, according to averages since the recession ended in 2009.

Manufacturing jobs grew 5.5 percent over the year to 170,400 in Arizona, compared to the national average of 1.9 percent. These jobs tend to require higher skills and pay better than most.

"This is a very strong growth rate for manufacturing and the strongest growth rate we've seen since 1995," said Doug Walls, research administrator for the state agency.

Jobs in one subsector, computer and electronic parts manufacturing, had been shrinking in the state but begin to rise again in the middle of 2017. In March, the number of those jobs stood at 33,500 — a growth of 2,900 positions or 9.3 percent over the year.

Exports of Arizona-made machinery and electrical components grew from $3.6 billion in 2016 to $3.9 billion in 2017, Walls said.

Federal data shows that food manufacturing also was strong, adding 1,263 jobs from the fourth quarter of 2016 through the third quarter of 2017, he added.

In addition to the strong growth in manufacturing, another sector that is showing surprising resilience is trade, transportation and utilities, a sector dominated by retail trade and related businesses.

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These monthly numbers are estimates that rely on surveys of representative businesses and households and are subject to major revisions every March. Revisions earlier this year gave metro Tucson 3,600 more jobs last year than the monthly surveys had estimated.

Tucson lags state in manufacturing growth

While most computer-related jobs are in the Phoenix area, particularly at Intel in Chandler, Tucson's strength is aerospace products manufacturing, thanks to Raytheon Missile Systems.

The number of aerospace manufacturing jobs in metro Tucson grew by 600 (5.1 percent) over the year to 12,400, as of March.

But metro Tucson's overall manufacturing growth rate of 1.3 percent (over the year) put it fifth among the state's major metro areas. Metro Phoenix manufacturing jobs grew by 6.8 percent in that time.

Jobless rates

Arizona's unemployment rate remained unchanged from February to March at 4.9 percent, higher than the U.S. rate of 4.1 percent.

Pima County's rate fell to 4.3 percent from 4.7, and Maricopa County's , to 4 from 4.3.

Over the year, Arizona added 68,600 jobs, metro Phoenix, 65,600, and metro Tucson, 3,400. At the state level, the largest increases were in education and health services (14,300 jobs) and trade, transportation and utilities, (10,800 jobs.)

Most new Tucson jobs were in construction; at restaurants and bars; in transportation, trade and utilities, and in health care

One bright spot for Pima County is that natural resources and mining gained 100 jobs over the year. But the sector only has about 1,700 employees.

"While this is a smaller sector, we have been recording large losses within the sector primarily in copper mining employment , due to global copper price declines. We've seen employment in natural resources and mining rebound since and they are posting gains in 2018," Walls said.

Trade, transportation and utilities

This large sector, which has almost 530,000 employees statewide, grew by 2,000 jobs over the month and 10,800 jobs (2.1 percent) over the year. In the typical March (2010-2017 average) it only adds 600 jobs.But about 1,500 of those new jobs were with wholesalers and another 600 with building material and garden supply stores. Those gains were offset by losses at more general merchandise and department stores.

"We have been seeing some declines in the rate of growth through 2017. We actually recorded a month with over-the-year losses in retail. But for the past several months, we've seen a positive change in the retail trade trend. We'll continue to monitor that to see if that is one of the trends that continues," Walls said.

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