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Electronics manufacturing & construction are hot spots for Arizona jobs

Arizona gained 3,500 jobs in computer and electronics parts manufacturing over the past year, about 15 percent of all new jobs created in that field nationwide, the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity reported Thursday. 

The bulk of those new jobs, about 2,600 were in metro Phoenix.

The office didn’t specify where the other 800 were, but since Tucson is the state’s second largest job market, it likely shared in those gains.

The almost 11 percent growth in Arizona’s computer and electronics manufacturing jobs was the strongest on record since 1990, said Doug Walls, research administrator. 

Overall, the state added 87,800 non farm jobs from October 2017 through October 2018, for a growth rate of 3 percent.  Metro Tucson  added 7,400 jobs, for a rate of 1.9 percent. Metro Phoenix added 76,700, or 3.7 percent.

Arizona’s unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in October. That would have been the same as September but September’s rate was revised down to 4.6 percent. Pima County’s rate dropped to 4.1 percent in October compared with 4.5 in September. 

People continue to flood the state’s labor pool, which grew by almost 16,000 in October. The labor pool refers to people who are working or actively looking for a job.

“This labor force change of 16,000 is the largest over-the-month change on record since 1990,” Walls said. “This is as significant increase in the labor force as we’ve been seeing for quite some time in Arizona.”

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He said the growth in the labor force  is particularly striking because with baby boomers reaching retirement age, the labor force would be expected to shrink. But other forces are influencing it, such as population growth.  

Arizona’s October employment report also shows that construction – another symptom of population growth — continues to dominate job growth and that traditional retail and government jobs are declining or stagnating. These job numbers are estimates based on monthly surveys of households and businesses. The numbers are revised every March to conform to more accurate federal numbers.

Construction continues to boom

No other sector has added as many workers as construction over the past year. Almost 19,000 jobs were added over the past year, for a growth of 12.6 percent, which Walls said is the strongest growth in a decade.

One reason is more people want houses. Arizona’s home ownership rate has risen to 66.5 percent from 60.5 percent Justin the past three years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It was as high as 74 percent in 2005.

And Walls said that while younger people reportedly are shunning home ownership, research shows a large jump in 20-to 34-year-olds who are buying houses.

“Research has shown that even the younger generation, they are eventually buying homes, they are eventually getting married and having children. But it might take them a bit longer,” Walls said.

Arizona’s construction employment of about 168,700 remains far below the 2006 peak of 247,500.  It also still hasn’t caught up with a 2001 level of 179,600.

Retail job growth is unsteady

Just as retailers might be expected to extra help for the holidays, they added only 1,800 employees statewide in October. That is the lowest October number since 2009, when they only added 100, Walls said.

Online sales have steadily continued to take a larger piece of total retail, from about 4 percent in early 2009 to about 9.5 percent at the beginning of this year.

Walls said retail employment has been bouncing around every month between losses and growth and now is starting to slow down.

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But growth in warehousing and transportation grew faster, almost 6 percent, as companies hired more workers to store and deliver online goods. He said the growth in this sector is some of the highest on record. 

Gov't jobs had an unusual drop in October

Government posted used to be a steady sector that continued to grow. But in October, state and local governments (excluding public schools, colleges and universities) shed an estimated 1,500 jobs, the first loss in the past 10 Octobers as lawmakers are tightening their budgets.

But even when public education was added, government jobs only increased .7 percent over the year.

These taxpayer-supported positions have been barely growing, falling or stagnant since early 2012.

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