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Metro Tucson gained jobs faster than metro Phoenix, Arizona in Nov.

Metro Tucson gained jobs faster than metro Phoenix and the state overall in November, the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity reported Thursday.

The local region added 18,100 jobs from November 2015 to November 16, for 1.5 percent growth. That was second in the state behind Prescott, which gained four percent more jobs in the year-over-year comparison. Arizona and metro Phoenix only gained 1.1 percent.

And Tucson ranked first in the state for gains from October to November (2016), with 5,200 jobs or a 1.2 percent increase, as retailers, hotels and restaurants began gearing up for winter visitors and the holiday season.

Tucson for some reason tends to historically gain more seasonal jobs than metro Phoenix, said Doug Walls, OEO research administrator. In fact, the fastest growing sector in Tucson over the past year was restaurants and bars. They added 2,800 workers, for a gain of 8.9 percent. Employment at hotels, though, remained flat.

Arizona’s unemployment rate was lowered to 4.6 percent in November – its lowest point in eight years – from 5.2 percent in October as more people found jobs.

Tucson’s unemployment rate fell to 4.3 percent in November, compared with 4.8 percent a month earlier. That is its lowest point in nine years.

It was 4.1 percent in December 2007 when the Great Recession began and peaked at 10.1 percent in January 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor of Labor Statistics.

But researchers did see some troubling signs in November, particularly slower growth among retailers.

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“We do start to see slowing growth in total non-farm employment over the past four or five months. But keep in mind that it is still positive growth,” Walls said, adding that the state gained almost 30,000 jobs over the year.

However, while statewide retail jobs grew by 7,200 or 2.2 percent from October to November, they fell 500 jobs from November 2015 to November 2016.

“Retail did record job losses over the year for the first time in quite a while. We are seeing a similar trend at the national level where they are seeing a slowdown in positive over-the-year growth. So this isn’t something that is unique to Arizona. It’s a trend to watch that we need to watch,” Walls said.

He refused to speculate whether that is due to more people shopping online and causing retail jobs to shift from physical locations to warehouses. The state office will delve into the numbers deeper after the first of the year, an annual process called “benchmarking,” and expects to report more details in March.

Private education, ambulatory care and hotel jobs also have shown weaker than expected job growth in the state, he said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Wednesday that the Tucson region continues to have more people living in poverty and a lower median income than averages for Arizona and the nation.

Tucson had about 184,600 people of all ages living in poverty in 2015, or 18.7 percent. That was the same percent as 2014. Poverty peaked at 20.4 percent in 2011.

In comparison, the nation’s poverty percent was 14.7 in 2015 and Arizona's was 17.4. 

And metro Tucson’s median household income reached $47,107 in 2015, below the state average of $51,473 and U.S. average of $55,775.

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