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Tucson's jobless rate falls for 3rd month, to 4.8 percent

Metro Tucson’s jobless rate fell in October for the third month in a row, and it matched the Phoenix area in gaining nearly 2 percent more jobs in a year-over-year comparison.

Tucson’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.8 percent in October from 5.2 percent in September. That was slightly worse than metro Phoenix, where the unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent in October, the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity reported Thursday.

The overall Arizona jobless rate fell from 5.5 percent and landed at 5.2 percent in October. While that was an improvement, it was worse than the national October rate of 4.9 percent.

One unusual trend state researchers have begun noticing is that more holiday temporary workers are ending up in Amazon-type warehouses, causing growth in the ranks of traditional store retailer workers to slow.

“Typically these temporary seasonal workers would show up in retail sales, but they are showing up in employment services,” said Doug Walls, research administrator at the economic opportunity office.

In metro Tucson, for example, the number of hires in the broad category that includes wholesale, retail, department and food and beverage stores fell by 200 workers in October, compared with a year earlier. But those in professional and business services, which include employment services and warehouses, grew by 900 jobs over the year.

Overall, Tucson gained 7,000 jobs over the year, for 1.9 percent growth. The state added 49,600 jobs (1.8 percent) and metro Phoenix, 37,800 (1.9 percent).

The industry sector continuing to show the strongest growth in the state continues to be health services and private education, which added 15,800 jobs statewide over the year in October. It also added 3,100 (4.9 percent) in metro Tucson.

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For months, Prescott has led the state in job growth, adding 4.8 percent in October, largely in tourism and health care fields.

Highlights of Tucson’s job situation:

  • The highest job growth over the year, 9.3 percent, was in food services and drinking places. There are 32,900 employees at those businesses. 
  • Aerospace manufacturing, with 11,400 workers, expanded by 6.5 percent. But overall manufacturing grew by 3.5 percent  to 23,600 employees.
  • The sector with the most employees is government, with 80,300 federal, state and local school district workers in October. But it is also one of the slowest growing, with .9 percent growth in October, compared with a year earlier.
  • Natural resources and mining remained at  2,200 workers, with no growth or shrinkage.
  • And the number of construction workers fell 2.7 percent to 14,300.
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