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Arizona adding jobs faster than population growing

Job applicants continue to flood Arizona and most appear to land jobs fairly quickly, the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity reported Thursday.

The number of people working or looking for jobs grew by almost 50,000 over the past year (almost 10,000 just in September), and the number of people working grew by about 48,600 to 3.2 million.

"More people are entering the labor force, and most of them are able to find jobs," said Doug Walls, research administrator for the agency.

The labor force grows because of new graduates, new residents or because someone reenters the work force after, perhaps, staying home to take care of someone or when a part time jobs ends.

Arizona has been adding jobs faster than its population is growing. From 2016 to 2017, its population grew by 1.7 percent, making it the fifth fastest growing state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Its job growth over the past year was 3 percent.

Walls also said Arizona has been adding jobs at a faster clip than the nation for the past five years.

The estimated number of people in metro Tucson's civilian labor force rose by 8,000 over the year to 488,600, and the number who were employed grew by 7,300 to 466,800.

Most of the major job sectors have been adding jobs, particularly construction and manufacturing.

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But the shift to shopping more online instead of at physical stores is hurting some retailers. Jobs at clothing and accessory stores, for example, fell by 600 jobs or 2.8 percent over the year statewide. Jobs at food and beverage stores are also stagnant. But jobs at Amazon type warehouses and for the transportation industry grew by 6 percent.

All these numbers are estimates based on monthly surveys of households and businesses and will be revised in March to correspond to more accurate federal numbers.

Unemployment rate rises

Despite the rapid job growth, Arizona's unemployment or jobless rate inched up to 4.7 percent in September from 4.6 percent in August. Metro Tucson's fell to 4.4 percent from 4.8 percent.

Arizona's rate has not changed appreciably and has remained above the U.S. rate for the past year. But the U.S. rate recently improved, falling to 3.7 percent in September from 3.9 percent in August.

Walls said Arizona's unemployment rate doesn't tell the whole picture. Unlike during the recession, people are staying unemployed for a shorter time.

The unemployment rate is based on monthly household surveys that ask residents if they have a job, actively looked for a job in the past four weeks and are now available for work. Anyone who hasn't looked for a job in the past month is considered unemployed.

Walls explained that if someone is new to the labor force, perhaps because they just graduated from college, it takes a while to write resumes and look for jobs. They may have an interview in a week and still be counted as unemployed.

The unemployment rate can be misleading because a third of people counted as unemployed are there for less than five weeks, Walls said.

Construction and manufacturing are hot

Construction was the fastest growing employment sector in Arizona over the past year, with an 11 percent growth rate.

But Walls said it doesn't appear that Arizona is overly dependent on that industry as it was before the recession when homebuilders overbuilt. The resulting loss of construction jobs made Arizona among the worst hit in the nation during the recession.

"The current numbers are nowhere the pre-recession peaks…Those were unsustainable levels that were reached prior to the recession," he said.

Arizona's construction employment peaked at 236,000 in 2006 and was about 165,000 in September, according to the state office and U.S. Bureau of labor Statistics.

All the state's manufacturing sectors, including durable and non-durable goods, have been growing at a moderate and sustained pace.

But computer and electronics parts manufacturing is booming after sustaining losses for four and a half years until mid 2017. Over the past year, this sector added 3,100 jobs for a 9 percent growth in Arizona.

Tucson gained about 600 jobs, or 6.5 percent, in aerospace products and parts manufacturing

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